Excellent news from Arlington County, where transit and the environment scored a nice victory this morning with funding for a modern streetcar system along Columbia Pike. This system will bring benefits to Arlington, Fairfax, and the region for many years to come, with no need for general obligation bond funding, and with a huge return on investment (just like Metrorail has done for Arlington, but on a smaller scale). I look forward to this project being built, and hopefully for a lot more of these types of projects being built in the future!
July 19, 2014
Fully funding Arlington Public Schools’ 2014 bond referenda request
Reinvesting in aging park and County facility infrastructure
Increasing funding for Metro, repaving streets, improving water and sewer systems
Funding streetcar system, other strategic initiatives
Approving $219 million bond referenda for November ballot
ARLINGTON, VA – The Arlington County Board today approved a $2.7-billion 10-year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for Fiscal Years 2015-2024. The plan funds County projects and infrastructure. The Arlington Public Schools adopted a $534.1 million CIP in June, bringing the total to $3.2 billion as the planned CIP investment over the next decade for both County and Schools.
“This CIP reflects the values and goals of our community,” said Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette. “The Board’s adoption of this plan comes after months of dialogue with Arlingtonians. Together, we’ve produced a balanced plan that maintains our existing infrastructure and makes strategic investments in our future. This is a prudent, financially sustainable plan that will meet the needs of our growing community and help maintain our triple-Aaa bond ratings.”
The Board voted 3 to 2 to adopt the CIP.
Strategic investments over the next 10 years:
Arlington Public Schools: full support for APS’s $534.1 million plan to address growing enrollment including full funding of its 2014 $105.8 million referenda request which addresses capacity expansion at the elementary and secondary levels.
Metro & Transportation: $1.1 billion in extensive investments (excluding Streetcar) to ensure safety, accessibility, and efficiency for commuters on bike, foot, car, and transit. These include the County’s commitment to Metro rail; investments in ART bus; Columbia Pike Transit Stations; new entrances or elevators at Ballston-MU, Pentagon City, Courthouse and Crystal City Metro stations; Capital Bikeshare and BikeArlingon, and Complete Streets projects at Army Navy Drive and East Falls Church.
Streetcar system: $485.6 million to leverage new state funding and continue long-planned streetcar infrastructure investments, which are critical to the realization of the County’s economic development goals. The Adopted CIP includes no general obligation bond funding for the Columbia Pike or Crystal City Potomac Yard segments of the planned 7.4- mile streetcar system. It also eliminates Federal Transit Administration New Starts funding, and adds $52.3 million in new funding from the Commonwealth to the financial plan for the Columbia Pike segment.
Lubber Run Community Center: An estimated $28 million proposed construction funding in Fiscal Year 2017-2018 to accelerate the replacement of one of the County’s oldest community centers, following a community planning process commencing in 2015.
New fire station and OEM relocation: An estimated $25.1 million to design in Fiscal Year 2017 and build in Fiscal Years 2018-2019 a fire station in northern Arlington, following community engagement and planning processes that are just now beginning.
The Board removed reference in the County Manager’s Proposed CIP to North 26th Street as the preferred location for a relocated fire station and OEM facility, and specified that the County will initiate collaborative processes for siting a northern tier fire station and an OEM facility, followed by master planning of the Old Dominion Road/N. 26th Street site.
ConnectArlington:$5.5 million to expand the County’s fiber-optic, high-speed, dedicated network to further economic development goals.
Maintaining existing infrastructure – the CIP funds several areas of basic infrastructure:
Street paving: a $14.1 million increase in paving over the previous 10-year CIP, including a 45 percent increase in the current year, for a total of $128.3 million for paving in the adopted CIP.
Parks and facilities: continues the County’s reinvestment in playgrounds, courts, fields, and essential components of buildings such as HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) systems. The Board chose to accelerate investments in Tyrol Hills Park ($1.4 million) and Aurora Hills Community Center ($1.5 million). Design, including a community process, for Tyrol Hill Park, will begin in the spring or summer of 2015. Design for the Aurora Hills Community Center also will begin in spring or summer of 2015, and will build on the community engagement process that started earlier this year.
Water/sewer system infrastructure and stormwater management: $317.7 million in water/sewer investments and $61.3 million for stormwater management, including increased support for the proposed Water Distribution Master Plan and Stormwater Management Master Plan, to meet state and federal requirements.
East Falls Church improvements: The board accelerated $1,000,000 in funding for pedestrian safety and access improvements around the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.
Four Mile Run: The board restored $1.1 million in funding for design and planning in Fiscal Year 2018 for later phases of Four Mile Run Park.
The Board also adopted revised financial and debt management policies to ensure maintenance of Arlington’s triple-Aaa bond ratings. The updated policies confirm the County’s operating reserve level of five percent of general government expenditures. The policies also confirm the County’s debt affordability ratios, including a modified, more conservative variable rate debt policy. Finally, a new policy regarding tax increment financing was added.
The Board today also approved the 2014 bond referenda, which includes projects in the following categories:
Metro and Transportation
Local Parks and Recreation
Arlington Public Schools
A total of $219.0 million in bonds will be put before voters, in four separate questions. The referenda will be held during the general election on Tuesday, November 4, 2014.
The County Manager released the Proposed CIP in May 2014. Since that time, staff has met with12 commissions and committees, and provided information at five County Board work sessions.
The Proposed CIP was posted on the County’s website, and the County Board held a public hearing on June 10. To read the staff report and County Manager’s recommendations made to the Board at the July 19 meeting, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #43-A on the Agenda for the July Regular County Board Meeting. To read the revised financial and debt management policies, scroll down to Item #43-B. To read the 2014 bond referenda resolutions and questions, scroll down to Item #43-C.
Arlington updates its Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), a planning document that outlines Arlington’s long range capital investment objectives, every two years. Proposed capital projects frequently include parks and recreation, community conservation, technology, multi-modal transportation systems, Metro and transit, schools, utilities, and other capital programs.
The County’s Adopted CIP includes referenda amounts requested by the Arlington School Board to be voted on in November.
Excellent news, now let's build this thing already - it's long past overdue.
Commonwealth to Provide Up to $65 Million in New State Funding for Columbia Pike Streetcar
July 11, 2014
*Total state funding of up to 50% of project costs
*Partnership with Arlington and Fairfax Counties
*Advances project schedule at least a year
*High-capacity streetcar will enhance northern Virginia's economic competitiveness, generate new revenues for localities, Commonwealth
ARLINGTON, Va. - Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne has notified Arlington and Fairfax County officials that the Commonwealth will increase its funding for the Columbia Pike streetcar by up to $65 million, using new funding available for fixed-guideway projects. The new funding will bring the state's contribution to the Columbia Pike streetcar to as much as 50 percent of total design and construction costs.
"The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner," Layne said in his July 10 letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.
The State's commitment enables Arlington to put together a financial package for the project that does not include Federal Transportation Administration New Starts funding.
Arlington and Fairfax Counties are partners in the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, which will stretch 4.9 miles from the Skyline area of Fairfax to Pentagon City in Arlington along the most heavily traveled bus corridor in the Commonwealth. The Columbia Pike streetcar, one of two segments in Arlington's planned 7.4-mile seamless streetcar system, will support the community's vision of transforming the Pike into a more transit-oriented, walkable Main Street.
Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chairman Sharon bulova wrote to Layne in June, asking that the Commonwealth consider funding the Columbia Pike streetcar project.
"This additional state funding is great news for the streetcar," Fisette said Friday. "It is both a strong vote of confidence that the streetcar is a transit investment that will benefit the entire Commonwealth, and brings funding certainty that significantly boosts our efforts to build the Columbia Pike segment more quickly, at reduced cost."
According to Leesburg Today, Gov. McAuliffe appears to be leaning towards support for the "Bi-County Parkway" project.
"We have to open up Dulles airport," McAuliffe said. "We will have a resolution relatively quickly."
McAuliffe pointed to stalled growth in Dulles Airport's passenger counts as a key concern. While efforts are being made to add new flights-such as Air China's direct connections to Beijing that began last week-increased cargo operations will be important to keep the airport growing, he said.
Bi-County Parkway advocates say the new road is needed to facilitate cargo transports. Critics say the project would be a misuse of road construction funds needed to free up other travel choke points in the region.
This is misguided, and also kind of strange to be blunt, on a number of levels. With regard to the "strange" part, recall that last October, the McAuliffe campaign was bashing Ken Cuccinelli for "pop[ping] a U-Turn" on the project, while McAuliffe "waivered" on the question, with Derek McGinty of WUSA asking McAuliffe at a debate in August, "Don't you owe it to the voters to take an actual position on the Bi-County Parkway?" McAuliffe's response at that time was that "I do not make decisions nor will I make decisions until I have all the facts in front of me." And now?
Well, now Terry McAuliffe has been Governor of Virginia for 6 months, and he appears to be leaning towards support for the Bi-County Parkway. It true, that would be a big mistake, for all the reasons the Coalition for Smarter Growth lists.
Good news for those of us who are not fans of referenda as a method of governing (see here for my thinking on this subject). Also see the comments section for statements by Arlington County Board Democratic members Jay Fisette, Walter Tejada and Mary Hynes on why they oppose the referendum idea.
The majority of the Arlington County Board today refused to hold a public vote on the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar projects, saying they do not have the legal authority to order an advisory vote, and any other option would require them to use local homeowners' taxes, which they do not want to do.
Also, see the videos below explaining the many, many reasons why a streetcar system makes sense for Arlington County.
At tonight's Arlington County Democratic Committee (ACDC) meeting, County Board Chair Jay Fisette made some key points about the much-criticized "million-dollar bus stops" (aka, "Super Stops") which I wish the Board had been making for months now (but better late than never?).
*These are not simple bus stops, but "transit stations" that have MUCH higher passenger throughput (250-1,000 people per stop per day) and features (e.g., real-time information signs, electrical wiring).
*The higher capacity is needed because the corridor they will be serving is "the most heavily trafficked bus route in Virginia."
*Similar transit stations in other cities are comparable in price to/MORE expensive than the "Super Stops" in Arlington (e.g., $757,000 per station in Charlotte, NC; $762,000 per station in Hampton Roads; $469,000 per station in Arlington).
In short, once you actually look at the facts, the Super Stops not only don't look like some sort of boondoggle that the Fox News crowd loves to lambaste; they actually look like a bargain! Anyway, I'm glad that Jay Fisette set the record straight tonight, I just wish he had done so a long time ago...
P.S. Another one of Republican John Vihstadt's fallacious, demagogic talking points bites the dust. LOL ;)
As the following press release (on the "flip") indicates, calls for holding a referendum regarding Arlington's Columbia Pike Streetcar appear to be growing. I had initially thought that there was almost no likelihood there would ever be a referendum, for at least two major reasons. First, in this strong "Dillon Rule" state of ours, an advisory referendum needs approval from the Virginia General Assembly, and that's highly unlikely before November 2014. Another option would be to put the streetcar on the ballot this November as part of a bond package. The problem is that such a bond package would be necessary ONLY if general obligation bonds were being used, and that hasn't been part of the streetcar financing discussion to date. But perhaps that's what the Board will end up doing, assuming they can't get state and/or federal funding lined up in short order.
In general, I'm not a fan of referenda as a method of governance. Neither, I'd point out, were our Founding Fathers, who specifically set up our system of government as a representative, federal system with checks and balances against the passions of the day, the majority over the minority, etc, etc. I'd also point to California's disastrous "Proposition" system and to the popular vote approving anti-gay-marriage amendments in a bunch of states, including Virginia, as arguments in favor of the Founding Fathers' vision.
Having said all that, ultimately if voters want a say in something - the Columbia Pike Streetcar in this case - they're almost certain to get it, one way or the other (e.g., via a referendum or an election - for County Board, in this case). So, the bottom line is that the pro-streetcar forces need to do what I've been saying for a couple years now: get their act together, big time, along the lines of the well-organized, well-funded TysonsTunnel.org effort to promote putting the Silver Line below ground in Tysons. Yes, that latter group ultimately lost, but it came very close to winning, against incredibly powerful forces (the Governor, Congressional delegation, all the money Bechtel was throwing around, etc.) arrayed against it. Are streetcar supporters in Arlington willing to make that kind of full-court-press effort? If not, then this isn't going to end well for those of us who strongly support building a streetcar system in Arlington.
P.S. I'm not at all convinced that a referendum will "save" either Alan Howze or County Board members up for reelection next year. Why? Because I believe the main reason why Republican John Vihstadt won a seat on the Board was mostly about anger at the Board being "insular, arrogant, and non-communicative," not about any one project - the streetcar, the aquatic center, the "million-dollar bus stops" - per se. Would a referendum on the streetcar cause Arlingtonians who don't like the Board to suddenly like it? Uhhhh...sorry, but don't think so.
Lowell Feld, a self-avowed progressive and publisher of Blue Virginia, has invited each candidate for the Democratic nomination for Virginia's 8th congressional district seat to provide comments on the Columbia Streetcar project. Lowell, a staunch streetcar advocate, declared earlier this month that Alan Howze and the Arlington County Board "absolutely, positively should NOT back off on the streetcar project." Lowell appears to believe that the project will generate billions of dollars in development and tax revenue, making support for this project a "no brainer." Lowell accuses streetcar opponents of "disinformation, distortions, and outright lies," such as claiming that the streetcar has taken away from "core services."
Though I don't know much about Lowell's progressive believes, I respect his position and that of other streetcar supporters, yet as a public transit advocate and creator of a transit advocacy group, Transiters, I want to offer reasons why support for the streetcar is inconsistent with progressive goals.
A Columbia Pike streetcar would spur $3.2 billion to $4.4 billion in development over the next 30 years in Arlington and Fairfax counties, triple the amount that would be triggered by improving bus transit, according to a consultant's study released Wednesday.
The report by HR&A Advisors said the benefits of building a streetcar line between Bailey's Crossroads and Pentagon City would far exceed the expected $310 million cost of the project - boosting property values, new construction and tax revenue.
Development encouraged by the streetcar project would result in as many as 6,600 new jobs...
If you're interested, I strongly recommend that you check out the study for yourself. Also, I've taken a few screen shots of highlights, which you can see below. The bottom lines are:
1. The economic benefits to Arlington and Fairfax Counties that would come from investing in a streetcar system rather than enhanced bus service are enormous. It's not even close. Heck, it's not even CLOSE to being close. Which really calls into question what the anti-streetcar folks - including Republican and anti-streetcar County Board candidate John Vihstadt - have been yammering about the past few months. It's never made any sense to me, and after this study, I am 100% certain that the anti-streetcar folks' arguments are just dead wrong.
2. Because of its enormous return on investment, the streetcar MORE THAN PAYS FOR ITSELF! Assuming a 3% discount rate, for instance, the streetcar brings in $895 million in additional tax revenues over 30 years, nearly THREE TIMES the $310 million cost of building the streetcar system. Enhanced bus service brings in far, far less tax revenue, in large part because it spurs far, far less economic development. The streetcar also carries more passengers than enhanced bus service. In short, there are NO economic or tax revenue advantages to enhanced bus service over a streetcar system along Columbia Pike. Z-E-R-O. Case closed. Build the darn streetcar already and let's start enjoying the (massive) benefits that will flow from it!
On a snowy winter day in Virginia, a new holiday tune has been written. I hesitate to share this, but perhaps it will "resonate" with someone:
The Virginia Car Tax Blues (White Prius)
I'm dreamin' of a white Prius...
with every car tax check I write.
Where the hybrids pay more, and big cars pay less,
To use, Virginia's bumpy roads.
I'm dreamin' of a new Prius...
but I don't think it makes sense here.
Low de-pre-ci-a-tion, high val-u-a-tion,
You pay, more car tax every year.
Now thinkin' of a used Chevy...
just like the one Gramps used to drive.
If you think that's crazy, you're right!
But may all your Priuses...be White.
The lyrics were written a few days ago when two Virginia grandfathers, who do not know each other, were nonetheless commiserating on an on-line forum about Virginia's new hybrid fees. As it turns out, we both own white Prii (whereas Prii is the official plural form of Prius). Hey elected officials: when grandfathers have to unite to write protest songs, perhaps there is a problem.
Among the many other absurd claims made by Bob McDonnell and his supporters to try and burnish his supposed "accomplishments" as governor of Virginia the past 4 years, perhaps the most absurd is how great he was on "fixing" transportation in Virginia. That's wrong on so many levels, it's hard to know where to begin. Let's just review this history a bit, before the revisionism gets etched in stone.
1. See my 9/26/09 blog post, which summarizes a Washington Post editorial (entitled "Drunk Driving"), blasting then-candidate Bob McDonnell's transportation "plan" as "yield[ing] only disappointment." Why is that? Well, perhaps because it "relies on wildly optimistic assumptions, brazen exaggerations, gauzy projections and far-off scenarios: budget surpluses and revenue growth that may not materialize; interstate tolls that the federal government may not approve; royalties from offshore oil and gas wells that may not be drilled; borrowing that the state may not be able to afford anytime soon." As if that's not bad enough, the Post adds that the $500 million McDonnell promises he'd raise from selling off Virginia's liquor stores is nothing but an "invented" number or, "worse, an intentional distortion." The bottom line, in the Post's (and my) view, is that McDonnell's 2009 transportation "plan" - using the word very loosely - "crumbles under close scrutiny." #FAIL
2. After being elected governor, McDonnell didn't do much about transportation. In January 2010, for instance, McDonnell said "he will not propose a fix during this year's legislative session." As Sen. Chap Petersen put it at the time, "McDonnell campaigned on the idea that he had a plan -- that he beat up Creigh for not having a plan -- so I'm very surprised not to see legislation to enact that plan during this session." Yep.
This Sunday, a group called Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) is holding a fundraiser with former Rep. Tom Davis (R) and Arlington County Board member Libby Garvey (D). The #1 goal of AST is to stop a proposed streetcar project along Columbia Pike (supported overwhelmingly, and for many years, by both the Arlington and Fairfax County Boards), and to replace it with a mythical "Bus Rapid Transit" (BRT) system (I say "mythical" because you can't have BRT without dedicated lanes, and that's not possible on Columbia Pike).
Anyway, my question for today isn't about AST or about the merits of the streetcar project (which I strongly support, by the way), but about former Rep. Tom Davis (R). The last we heard from Davis, he was making the case for the Republican "extreme team" ticket (Cuccinelli/Jackson/Obenshain) and how they could win the election on November 5. Uh, guess not - ha. Now, Davis is busy raising money to fight a streetcar in Arlington? Why?
[Rep. Tom Davis] says he's deeply concerned that at the Vienna station, "smart growth" -- the slogan of those who favor building more densely around transit stations to funnel population growth there rather than letting it seep deeper into the countryside -- is really dumb growth, overly congesting both roads and rails.
Three Fairfax elected officials told me that Davis explained his opposition to the MetroWest development to them as a matter of party politics: The congressman believes that the people most likely to move into condos and townhouses near a Metro station are -- oh, the horror! -- Democrats.
One politician who spoke to Davis says the congressman told him straight-out that he opposes Pulte Homes' MetroWest project because "all it does is produce Democrats."
Of course, this doesn't explain why Davis would care about a smart growth project like the Columbia Pike streetcar, given that it's not in his (former) district. Perhaps it's as one Virginia Democratic political power player told me, that "Republicans would like to see flat population growth in NOVA so it can't completely dominate statewide races," and that smart growth/high-density-development projects, such as flows from transit projects like Metro and streetcars, do indeed "produce Democrats," as Davis so inelegantly (but correctly) put it back in 2005. The bigger question is, why are some Arlington Democrats working with Tom Davis to oppose this project? That's what I don't get at all.
For three years we have heard that Virginia is enjoying budget surpluses. All the while, a series of gimmicks have been employed that will unravel during the years to come; some immediate, some long term. Terry McAuliffe would be well advised to determine baselines that provide context for funding obligations.
Ken Cuccinelli was right when he claimed that taxes would increase during a McAuliffe administration; what he failed to point out was that they also had consistently increased during the current administration and would under his own. The difference will be that Governor McDonnell was allowed to borrow against the future and underfund capital requirements, in effect levying the tax on his successors and generations to come. Cuccinelli would have done much more of the same. Such maneuvers by the coming McAuliffe administration will not be met with the deafening silence afforded the current administration.
Maintaining the Illusion of Surpluses
The Virginia Retirement System (VRS) "loan" amortization, the legislatively mandated 20% annual contribution deficiency, and total unfunded pension obligations
Education infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
Transportation infrastructure maintenance, capitalization and re-capitalization underfunding
Positive growth of revenue streams; particularly from areas such as agricultural production where weather and markets are beyond the influence of state government but have had a good run
Terry McAuliffe should conduct an audit early on so that the inevitable future claims of fiscal malfeasance can be placed in context when the bills come due. This one must be much more honest than the audit by McDonnell's team which made claims like turning up over $100 million that had been "mismanaged" by the Department of Transportation during the Kaine administration (conversely, McAuliffe should make certain that operating funds and reserves have not been drawn down). No, this audit should nail down underfunded and unfunded obligations that are currently, to a great extent, off the books. Some will come due during the next four years; some will continue to grow otherwise unacknowledged until they explode with consequences similar to the Detroit pension crisis.
Ask cab driver Daniel H. Mariam about working conditions for people like him in Arlington and he'll tell you it's nothing less than "modern day slavery."
Mariam, 60, hails from Ethiopia and provides for a family of five, including a son at Virginia Commonwealth University and a daughter he can't afford to send to community college. He works 70 to 80 hours per week if he's lucky. Yet he says that Yellow Cab company makes more off his taxi fees than he does driving it.
He starts his day in debt with $70 owed for insurance and gas, not including maintenance. Each week he pays $205 in fees to Yellow Cab, even though he says his contract stated $145. Each year he pays $15,000 in tariffs and $5,000 in ownership fees for his taxi, even though he paid $30,000 for the hybrid car he says Yellow Cab forced him to buy. And if the hybrid battery dies, he has to pay $3,500 to replace it.
Despite what he pays to own his cab, Mariam says that he can't transfer ownership to another driver in case he needs to be with his mother in Ethiopia because the temporary driver couldn't recoup the cost of fees through fares while he or she had the car.
Mariam says that this exploitative red-tape behavior has been business as usual at Yellow Cab for the past 50 years. This is possible, Mariam says, because he and other drivers are considered independent contractors with few rights and "no value as human being[s]."
Three months ago, Mariam says that he had a meeting with company managers to address the grievances of 60 organized Yellow Cab drivers. He says that when he went into their office, they had a camera recording him to catch him if he said anything "wrong" which they could use to fire him.
Given these circumstances, Mariam has no regrets about lending his voice to lunchtime protest Tuesday at the Clarendon Metro station where he and 100 other immigrant cab drivers spoke out against what they describe as an excessive and unjust licensing system.
After rallying at the station, the drivers dispersed to carry out the planned action: putting Arlington on notice by taking up all public parking spaces then slowly driving their taxis around the station, as well as marching through the district with signs and chants of "no justice, no cabs" and "respect human rights for taxi drivers."
Miriam and the other drivers want copies of their signed contracts, the ability to transfer ownership of their cars to other drivers and adequate review of the drivers' proposal by the Arlington County board.
As Mariam left Tuesday's protest, he had one more message to his company owners: "I came here today. I knew what I was getting into. If you're going to fire me, do it tomorrow."
It's typical for hypocrite Republicans to gleefully take whatever federal tax money they can get (e.g., massive net subsidies for most "red states" for agriculture, water, power, roads, health care, you name it) with one hand while relentlessly bashing it with the other. Oh, and they also love to take credit for things that they either had nothing to do with, or even occurred in SPITE of them. For instance, here in Virginia, we benefited tremendously from the Economic Recovery Act of 2009 - which passed with basically ZERO Republican support, and played a huge role in allowing us to recover economically from the Bush/Republican Great Recession - yet you'll never hear a word about that from Bob McDonnell, Ken Cuccinelli, etc. Instead, THEY take credit for Virginia's economic recovery, when in fact they made matters much worse via their austerity policies at the state level. One thing these guys have is chutzpah, that's for sure.
Anyway, this morning we had another example: Bob McDonnell touting "the new $69.5 million interchange at Fairfax County Parkway and Fair Lakes Parkway." According to Grifter (and Federal Government Basher) Bob:
The 66,000 motorists who travel through this area each day are now shaving valuable minutes off their trips to work, school and shopping...Motorists now have an interchange that smoothes traffic flow and will accommodate future growth. A world-class transportation system is key to both economic opportunity and to the quality of life of every Virginian.
Ain't that lovely? The only problem is, T-Bob forgot to mention something: according to Rep. Connolly's office, "More than half of the $70 million cost of the project was funded with a total of $40.8 million in federal funds, which made it possible for VDOT to advance the project by two years." In fact, "The project remained in VDOT's 'unfunded' category until the Commonwealth received the needed federal funding through the Recovery Act." Details, details, huh? :)
So, did Bob McDonnell just "forget" to mention any of that highly pertinent information? Or, more likely, did he decide to remove it from his talking points, as obviously it interferes with the narrative he's trying to construct, that he - and only he - is responsible for any accomplishment that takes place in Virginia (didn't ya know, the economic recovery here was ALL BOB! lol). Well, sorry Bob, but that little thing called "reality" simply doesn't back you up. To the contrary, as Rep. Connolly says, "As [Fairfax County Board of Supervisors] Chairman, I worked with my colleagues here on the Board of Supervisors and VDOT to set aside money and advocate for this project." And, Connolly adds, "In Congress, I was proud to support the Recovery Act, which provided the final $13 million necessary to complete this important traffic improvement project." Hmmmm.
So, maybe now that Bob McDonnell has all the facts, he might update his website accordingly to provide a fairer picture of how this project came about? Naaaaaaaaah! Who am I kidding?!? Heh.
P.S. From folks who were at the ribbon cutting, I hear that Fairfax County Board Chair Sharon Bulova DID point out the "stimulus" funding for this project, and also reminded the crowd that federal funding played a part in finishing the Fairfax County Parkway as well. She particularly made a point of thanking Rep. Connolly for his help. In contrast, Gov. Grifter (aka, "T-Bob") blabbered on and on, but didn't mention federal dollars (e.g., OUR tax money!) at all. Shocker, huh?
After years of planning, the Arlington County Board is set to take the final vote tomorrow to move forward with the Columbia Pike Streetcar. The Coalition for Smarter Growth supports the streetcar plan as the right choice for Columbia Pike (here's a reminder on why), and we hope you do, too. This vote will allow the design work that's necessary for the project to begin.
Feel like we've been here before? While the Board approved the streetcar in 2006 and 2012, opponents asked that the Board reconsider the plan when earlier this year, the Federal Transit Administration declined federal Small Starts program funding for the project, instead recommending that the project should be considered in the larger New Starts program.
Tuesday evening, the Leesburg Town Council deferred consideration of a resolution opposing the North-South Corridor until July 23rd. At the meeting, a controversial email chain came to light in which Bob Chase, Randy Minchew and other local figures were planning their defense of the corridor.
The North-South Corridor is not an adequate solution to our community's traffic problem. Independent studies show that 32 times as many Loudoun residents commute east to west as they do north to south and that the Corridor will not help congestion. In fact, most sources indicate that it will increase congestion around Leesburg. We need to focus on improving our current roads, increasing bus access, and completing the Silver Line to help Loudoun residents get out of traffic.
Intimidation is no way to make public policy. I'm confident that, whatever the result, the Council will act in the best interests of Leesburg residents. Randy Minchew's comments on the thread are both ridiculous and unworthy of a public servant. Anyone who's seen Mayor Umstattd and Councilor Burk working in the community knows that their focus is on how to best serve the people of Leesburg.
Monte Johnson is the Democratic nominee for Delegate in the 10th House District. To learn more about Monte, please visit monteforvirginia.comand don't forget to follow him on Facebookand Twitter!
Scapegoating unions. Attacking the workers they represent. This is Ken Cuccinelli’s plan to score political points and it's par for the course for him. But let's not lose sight of the proven benefits of project labor agreements and the well trained workers who proudly (and safely) build our infrastructure. Background, facts, and local case studies on Project Labor Agreements:
A project labor agreement is a market-based tool that sets the rules and expectations for management and workers and as a result, projects with PLAs come in on-time and on-budget.
PLAs DO • Promote local workers on local projects • Make sure workers are trained properly and have all the necessary certifications • Help ensure projects are done on time and on budget, as evidenced on Phase I of Dulles Rail • Provide exemptions for subcontractors, do not require them to use the PLA • Promote Minority and WMB Participation on projects with set-asides • Provide critical healthcare benefits to the workers • Serve as a taxpayer protection and create accountability on megaprojects where millions of dollars are at stake • Prevent megaproject DISASTERS such as the Springfield Interchange which DID NOT USE A PLA and had massive cost overruns and deaths on the project • Anger many anti-union Contractor Groups and their Chamber of Commerce allies because they don’t allow the companies to set the rules and make money (taxpayer and toll road user money) off of mistakes and delays
We've been telling you about the McDonnell Administration's push for the Outer Beltway over the past two years, making the case that the project is a waste of money and will make traffic worse.
Last Tuesday, our opposition gained a major champion when Congressman Frank Wolf (VA-10)sent a scathing letter to Governor McDonnell expressing “serious reservations” about the project.
Congressman Wolf's opposition is just the latest in a string of objections: At the end of April, six legislatorsfrom Northern Virginia announced their opposition to the project (including the Tri-County/Bi-County Parkway segment between I-66 and Route 50).
Citizens like you are mounting opposition to the project, too. Over 400 people attended one recent town hall alone.
This road project matters to everyone in Northern Virginia because it will have far-flung impacts -- wasting limited state resources, enabling sprawl, increasing traffic, and harming existing communities and the environment along the way.
The Project Doesn’t Add Up With VDOT about to allocate the next six years of transportation dollars, we need to prioritize improvements that will make the most difference to people who are stuck in traffic today. The Outer Beltway is not a good use of transportation dollars, because:
It doesn't address our overwhelming traffic problems on roads like I-66, Route 50, I-95 and other major commuter routes.
It diverts funds that the state should be using to invest in Dulles Rail Phase 2, Tysons Corner transportation needs and the Route 1 corridor.
It would cost at least $1 billion according to VDOT, and the associated connector roads to the west side of Dulles could cost another $500 million or more.
It would add more traffic to already congested commuter routes I-66 and Rt. 50 due to higher levels of residential development within the Prince William Rural Crescent and the Loudoun rural Transition Area, .
Ideas that Make More Sense This is not a situation where we have to choose between the Outer Beltway or nothing. There are lots of alternative transportation solutions that have been long-promised and would improve traffic flow right away. Things like:
Improving the interchange at Braddock Road and Rt 28.
Expanding the interchange at I-66 and Rt. 28.
Extending VRE to Gainesville and Metrorail to Centreville.
Investing in Dulles Rail Phase 2 instead of forcing northern Virginians to pay most of the costs.
Targeted use of roundabouts to keep people from sitting at key intersections in Loudoun and Prince William.
And that's just to name a few. We’ve joined the Piedmont Environmental Council in listing a set of alternative transportation solutions in Loudoun, western Prince William and western Fairfax that can be found in more detail on our website: smartergrowth.net/virginia/outer-beltway, and would welcome your feedback.
We personally thank the six Virginia State Delegates and Senators, as well as Congressman Wolf, for their leadership in questioning this wasteful highway. Please add your voice to the list of citizens who demand smarter, more effective transportation solutions going forward.
Stewart -- Stewart Schwartz Executive Director Coalition for Smarter Growth
P.S. - On May 29, VDOT will hold a public hearing on their proposed projects for funding in the state Six-Year Transportation Plan. VDOT has also announced a Public Information Session on the project on Monday, June 3 in Manassas. There's also a meeting about the Dulles Access Road alternatives on Thursday, June 13th in Ashburn. Learn more here. Yes, it's a full-court press, and they need to hear your strong opposition to the highway.
Back in 2000, I read and reviewed the superb book Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream." The book describes how America decided, consciously, to pursue a development pattern known as "sprawl," based in large part on massive subsidization of automobile travel, as well as almost complete discounting of negative "externalities" such as environmental damage, medical treatment necessitated by car-related injuries and pollution, adverse economic and national security implications of our "oil addiction, etc. Instead of incorporating all those "externalities" into the price of gasoline, we instead pay the cheapest price for gasoline in the developed world. Here in Virginia, our current governor just recently proposed making matters even worse, by slashing the gasoline tax. Another Republican, Jim Gilmore, came to power in part by promising "no car tax" - the exact opposite of what "Suburban Nation" recommends we should be doing if we want to have livable communities and a society that works for everyone.
Today, 13 years after my book review, gasoline is double the $1.75 per gallon (in inflation-adjusted dollars) that it was back then. We're also living in the aftermath of 9/11, which in part resulted from the bin Laden family's petrodollars funding a previously obscure group named "Al Qaeda." Since 2000, the threat of global warming has become far more urgent, while our economy has experienced a real estate collapse concentrated mostly in areas (e.g., Prince William County) where gasoline-fueled transport, long commutes, and large houses heated and cooled by fossil fuels, are king, and where sprawl is the standard development model. In stark contrast, places like Arlington and Alexandria - walkable, bikeable, near Metro stations - saw little decline in housing prices, followed by a sharp rebound in the past couple years. Coincidence? I think not.
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