Time spent stuck in traffic is time that could be spent more productively, being with family, coaching kids’ sports or working. When I grew up in Mount Vernon, congestion in Northern Virginia was virtually non-existent. You could get from A to B without encountering gridlock. In July, 2009, the Washington Post reported that Northern Virginia has the second-worst congestion in the United States and it is getting worse. Studies say that congestion costs the average Virginia driver $1,000 per year in lost productivity due to lost fuel, accidents, vehicle maintenance, and most importantly - lost time.
U.S. 1 from Woodlawn to Beacon Mall is congested every weekend and backed up north and south of Fort Belvoir every weekday. Doing something about U.S. 1 is my number one priority and I have dedicated an entirely separate page to that here:
Base realignment projects are now almost completed and have brought 19,300 new personnel and 52,000 new vehicle trips per day to Fort Belvoir (Click Here - For the Ft. Belvoir Traffic Information Fact Sheet), plus a new $880 million hospital (Click Here for hospital information).
Officials estimate that the $185 million 165,000 square-foot U. S. Army Museum scheduled to start construction on the post in 2013 will bring even more 400,000 tourists per year.
While completing the Fairfax County Parkway through the Engineering Proving Grounds later this year, the construction of Mulligan Road in 2013, and the widening of Telegraph Road between South Kings Highway and South Van Dorn Street will both help, there is much to be done. Virginia has virtually abandoned its obligation to build and maintain roads, largely because some powerful downstate legislators in the House of Delegates do not understand our needs and do not help address our problems. Fairfax County’s annual road maintenance allocation from the Commonwealth has gone from $28 million to $0 in six years. Local officials have been forced to study desperate steps such as Fairfax County becoming a city, because the House of Delegates will not act.
The problem is multi-faceted. Gasoline taxes were originally designed as use taxes, taxes to measure one’s use of the highway -- the more you drive, the more you pay. Virginia last adjusted its gas tax 24 years ago in 1985 from $0.15 to $0.17 when gas cost $.90/gallon. Today, we are effectively paying 2009 labor and construction costs with 1985 money.
Today's increased vehicle efficiency also means people pay fewer taxes per mile than they did in 1985 and even better fuel efficiency will mean even less revenue even as gas prices rise and the new CAFE standards announced in May, 2009 start to take effect.
Virginia’s road maintenance and construction allocation policies favor the rural areas whose elected officials control the House of Delegates and who refuse to give up funding to Northern Virginia, even though we send much more to Richmond.
Finally, traffic considerations are not adequately considered when local officials make land use decisions. This means that local governments can authorize more shopping centers, office buildings and other development without considering whether the transportation networks are adequate for these new developments. Zoning for jobs and retail without housing effectively pushes congestion further and further down the interstates, creating more sprawl and adding to demands for schools, sewers, drinking water and other public services, and creating more vehicle trips through Mount Vernon instead of within it. All of these problems must be addressed before progress in Northern Virginia is strangled.
We also cannot continue to do transportation the same way we have been doing things since Virginia took over the state system in 1925. We must focus more on alternate modes of transportation. All forms of mass transit requires dedicated funding and bicycle and pedestrian travel need to be given consideration in addition to automobiles. We must build on the federal stimulus funding that has enabled Virginia to investing in inter-city high-speed rail. While the Mount Vernon trail is a valuable community asset enjoyed by thousands of people every week, anyone looking to travel farther than west or south of Mount Vernon takes their life in their hands.
Finally, the key to revitalizing U.S. 1 is a functioning transportation network, good schools and significant infrastructure investments. The construction of rail in Arlington County and Bethesda, Maryland, has turned blighted storefronts into a vibrant place to live and work. Mount Vernon’s proximity to Alexandria and Washington, D.C., Fairfax County’s schools, and our wonderful natural and historical assets leave us poised to capture investment. The missing piece on U.S. 1 is population density and a functioning infrastructure. Everywhere Metro has been extended in Northern Virginia, jobs and housing have followed. I will fight to ensure that Mount Vernon receives the same public infrastructure investments as the rest of Northern Virginia.
We must --
- Fight to ensure that the federal government adequately funds mass transit and transportation projects, especially to support the move of 19,300 jobs to Fort Belvoir.
- Obtain funding to complete the study processes necessary to improve U.S. 1
- Complete the U.S. 1 interchange improvements.
- Complete Telegraph Road improvements - I-495 Interchange, Telegraph/South Kings/South Van Dorn Intersection, and Mulligan Road
- Begin planning process to invest in Bus Rapid Transit in the U.S. 1 Corridor with the long-term transition to rail – to Beacon Mall today and Fort Belvoir in the future.
- Obtain Virginia proportional representation on the Commonwealth Transportation Board
- Fight to adjust the road maintenance formula allocations to better reflect the realities of 21st century Virginia.
- Provide dedicated funding to public transit.
- Begin the planning process for high-speed intercity rail.
- Require planning and provide dedicated funding for bicycle and rail improvements.
- Link traffic considerations to land use decisions and give local governments stronger tools to better manage development.