no state money for Port

Brent Finnegan -- April 30th, 2008

This was sent to me by a reader who was at the HRCC meeting this morning:

Four area lawmakers spoke briefly this morning at the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce Legislative Wrap-Up Breakfast held at VMRC. State Senator Emmett Hanger, and Delegates Steve Landes, Chris Saxman and Matt Lohr each took the podium for a quick overview of the General Assembly’s recently passed state budget cuts, and how cutbacks will affect local transportation projects. The General Assembly will reconvene on June 4 to continue discussion on the transportation budget.

Hanger stated flatly that there is no money in the current budget to complete scheduled improvements to Port Republic Road and surrounding areas. Saxman and Landes added that there is no plan in place to raise the needed funds, but they hope that the state can find a way to come up with the money that is equitable to everyone. They agreed that adding to the cost of gasoline by raising the fuel tax is not a viable option. All four legislators indicated that they will continue to push for the Port Road improvements in the June session.

As you may know, the new RMH building is being constructed off Port Road, so the scheduled improvements have an added urgency, as hospital construction is scheduled to be completed in two years.

24 Responses to “no state money for Port”

  1. David Miller says:

    So, new hospital but no access. Is that even an option for our four area lawmakers to consider?

  2. Bubby says:

    This is the direct result of these three Delegates and their dysfunctional House Republican majority’s inability to deliver transportation funding legislation. In 2006 it was zip. In 2007 it was “abuser fee” fairy dust and illegal tax authorities. This year? Maybe the tooth fairy will deliver the road money?

    Honestly, why don’t you guys just admit you don’t know how to govern, quit your “no tax” preening, and head for the porch? Let someone with true courage face the tough decisions and get the peoples business done.

  3. Bubby says:

    Ha! You scooped the Daily News Record! They’re running with half a dozen stories on the City Treasurer psychodrama. Fishwrap.

  4. Scott Rogers says:

    Does anyone know if there are any previously allocated road improvement funds that are going to other projects that could be diverted to Port Rd? The hospital seems to make this a bit of a priority!!

  5. Bubby says:

    Scott: By law VDOT must meet road maintenance budgets so that bridges remain standing, and existing highways are repaired. If this means taking funds from planned road construction budgets then that is what will happen.

    The end result of not adequately funding our transportation budget is that money for planned road upgrades will be used for maintenance.

    Harrisonburg and Rockingham County could kick in the shortfall, but that is unlikely due to tight budgets, and the colossal expense of road construction. In fact the alternative Harrisonburg SE bypass is also rumored to be in jeopardy AFTER the City has kicked in it’s share.

  6. JGFitzgerald says:

    Many members of the Assembly are like the French politician who, seeing a crowd running down the street, rushed after them, saying, “I must find out where my people are going so that I may lead them.”

    Eventually the people will run down the road toward dedicated taxes for new highway lanes to accommodate more cars. Then the General Assembly will lead them.

  7. finnegan says:

    From TV3:

    “It’s not really realistic to try and impose another five cents onto that but even in Richmond last week, talking with fellow members of the House who are Democrats, a lot of them aren’t really in favor of a gas tax either,” says Republican Delegate Matt Lohr, who represents the 26th District.

    Lohr says he supports letting local governments impose taxes to fund road projects in their areas.

    Lohr’s comments in that story are followed by a separate story:

    Lots of people from Rockingham County turned out to speak on why it is important to widen Port Republic Road.
    Fred Sheaffer lives in the area between Boyars road and the Harrisonburg city limits.
    He says once the new hospital facility RMH is building is finished, there will be even more traffic.
    “Its going to present a terrible situation to the local residents living in the area, the commuters coming through the area, and the employees trying to get to the hospital,” say Sheaffer.
    The project cost is 26-million dollars, and may be on the chopping block because of a 44-percent decrease in state funding.
    Commonwealth secretary of transportation, Pierce Homer says,“ We want to help the local government improve the quality of life in their communities and that can’t be done for free. It requires money.”

  8. Tad Williams says:

    I live just off Boyers Rd. in the Taylor Springs subdivision. I drive by the hospital building site everyday. I don’t think the traffic in that area is that bad. I think everyone is assuming that once the hospital is finished that all of this other development will automatically take place and hence we will need to widen Port Rd. to Boyers Rd to handle the traffic. Maybe the county should have the guts to decree that the area around the hospital is off limits to every parasite developer who wants to build student housing next it. Otherwise we will be selling this new hospital to JMU also.

  9. Bubby says:

    Lohr says he supports letting local governments impose taxes to fund road projects in their areas.

    Translation: I want someone else to do my job.

    Mr. Lohr: Please, please go home and raise pumpkins. Let someone else fill your seat in the Legislature.

    “There will not be support to pass that (gas tax) in the current climate we’re in where fuel prices are just spiraling out of control,” says Hanger.

    What perfect “climate” do you want Mr. Hanger? $0.05/gal is 1.25% of the cost of gasoline. That is $100/year to me. I might even decide to conserve a little.

    State Senator Emmett Hanger showed interest in imposing small, regional or statewide tolls.

    That was a dumb idea when Harry F. Byrd Jr. came up with it about 60 years ago. You planning on building a toll booth on Port Road? I-81?

    You guys in the Shenandoah Valley Caucus really have run out of ideas haven’t you?

  10. David Troyer says:

    “It’s not really realistic to try and impose another five cents onto that but even in Richmond last week, talking with fellow members of the House who are Democrats, a lot of them aren’t really in favor of a gas tax either,” says Republican Delegate Matt Lohr, who represents the 26th District.

    heh, I love the wording here. “not really realistic” meaning political suicide, regardless of the economic sense it might make. with some of the forecasts of oil prices and the way speculators are jumping on those forecasts I think now is the perfect environment as opposed to a year from now. Maybe I haven’t thought about it hard enough, but it seems like a great way to have out-of-staters help pay for the roads they are using.

    All that said, I personally think that the county is making a wise planning decision as opposed to a wise reactionary decision. My mother lives out that direction on Port Republic road. Has anyone seen the amount of open farmland in that area so immediate to the city? Seems like growth in that area is inevitable and should be planned for.

    Lastly, who here has ever tried to turn onto Port Republic from Boyers? Talk about a death trap.

  11. Tad Williams says:

    I turn on Port Republic from Boyers everyday. Never had a problem. It’s certainly has traffic, but nothing like I continue to hear people talk about.

    That area is primed for development, but does it have to be. NO! We have Barrington, Taylor Springs, Lakewood, and soon Preston Lakes. We have all that development and yet I continue to see for sale signs for months and months. The one thing I have never seen in those areas are people pitching a tent and demanding the BOS develop the area.

  12. Scott Rogers says:

    Tad — development patterns are a function of supply and demand. Demand for housing was high just southeast of the city, and thus development occurred. Now, as you note, there is more supply than demand — as a result, lot development and building starts are down. Developers and builders don’t keep developing and building unless market conditions suggest that they will be able to sell their product. You suggest local government needs to restrict new home construction in the area — I would suggest that current market conditions will take care of that task for the next year or two, until supply and demand level back out.

  13. Tad Williams says:

    Scott – so the old invisible hand is the reason for all development in this community. BOS don’t make rezoning decisions and comprehensive plans, developers don’t get their projects subsidized by current residents, educational institutions are not subsidized by Virginia taxpayers. The bottomline is that there is not a single housing development built in Rockingham Co or Harrisonburg that does not cost the locality more in expenditures than it received in revenues. Farms and commerical development pay for residential development.

    Housing prices are a function of supply and demand, but I disagree that development patterns are. Development patterns can be influenced by many things including georgraphy. Page County is closer to Northern Virginia, but Rockingham Co has better roads to access that area. Page County has cockfighting, Rockingham County does not.

  14. JGFitzgerald says:

    Worth noting: much of the development immediately around the city is the result of county planning decisions, including where to run water lines. Their decisions, often influenced by memories of the 1983 annexation, were sometimes aimed at ringing the city with housing which, as TW notes, doesn’t turn a profit for the locality. The idea was that the next time the city wanted to annex, there would be nowhere worthwhile to go.

  15. Scott Rogers says:

    > the old invisible hand is the reason for all development in this community

    I’m not sure what you mean by the “invisible hand” — but later in your comment you touched on what drives development — that Harrisonburg and Rockingham County are desirable areas to work and live. As you mentioned, the location, road network and culture of Rockingham County (among other things) are desirable. Because they are desirable, people want to live here (either stay in the area, or move into the area). The desire to live equates to housing demand. Certainly, some people will rent, but many want to buy a home.

    Thus . . .

    WHY GROWTH OCCURS:
    Desirable area -> people want to live here -> they need a place to live -> many want to buy -> more homes are needed -> land is rezoned -> lots are developed -> houses are built.

    Your other comments . . .
    – current residents subsidize new developments
    – taxpayers subsidize education institutions
    – new developments are a net cost to the community
    . . . would seem to be arguments for why a locality should take measures to stop growth. And I can agree (generally) with the thought that:
    – growth has some negative consequences
    – growth does not have a net positive impact on all involved

    But what is the alternative? To halt growth? To do so, a locality would need to either:
    – stop rezoning land, and/or
    – stop issuing building permits

    Doing either of these would (in my opinion) have some rather negative consequences:

    – housing costs increase (since supply is limited), making it harder for existing residents to afford housing in their own community
    – economy stays stagnant, or shrinks, as a result of higher housing prices and a locality’s desire to limit growth — employers won’t move here (or stay here) if their employees (or potential employees) can’t find housing they can afford — thus, existing residents would then have fewer job opportunities without moving out of the area

    Thus, I would submit that:
    – Harrisonburg and Rockingham County will not continue to be desirable places to live UNLESS growth occurs.
    – Said growth needs to be well-planned to preserve the character and history of this area.

  16. Tad Williams says:

    The invisible hand is merely a reference to Adam Smith’s observation that if all consumers are free to choose what they want to buy while producers are free to chose what to produce then they market will settle on a given product distribution and price that is beneficial to members of that community.

    I am actually in favor of unfettered growth with the caveat being that all development must pay for itself. If they true cost of installing water and sewer for a house/townhouse is $20,000 then the developer/homeowner should pay the full cost. If building a house means an additional $5,000 in school expenditures then the developer/howeowner should pay the fulll cost on top of whatever long term costs are associated with that activity in this case building residential housing.

  17. Josh says:

    Be sure to checkout Scott’s “Is Growth Good Or Evil?” blog post, which already has one comment:

    http://www.scottprogers.com/blog/archives/2008/05/is-growth-good-or-evil_1209697745/index.php?f=1

    I think a lot of people would disagree with that “Harrisonburg and Rockingham County will not continue to be desirable places to live UNLESS growth occurs” conclusion. :-)

  18. Scott Rogers says:

    Josh — I suspected throwing that in there might cause some unrest! :).

    > the market will settle on a given product distribution and price that is beneficial to members of that community.

    Tad — I agree completely with this thought.

    > I am actually in favor of unfettered growth with the caveat being that all development must pay for itself.

    Tad — how do we reconcile this idea with the reality that the builder is just going to build those costs into the home, and thus pass it on to the buyer? I guess the unfettered market takes care of that, to the extent that if the builder has those costs to recoup, and would have to pass them on to the buyer, and the market wouldn’t sustain the resulting sales prices, then the builder would decide not to pursue that project?

  19. Tad Williams says:

    >I guess the unfettered market takes care of that, to the extent that if the builder has those costs to recoup, and would have to pass them on to the buyer, and the market wouldn’t sustain the resulting sales prices, then the builder would decide not to pursue that project?

    Exactly. Cheap/affordable housing is certainly desirable for the individual (me included), but is neither a constitional right or god given right.

  20. JW says:

    If growth continues in and around the city like it has in the past, Harrisonburg will not remain a nice place to live. The city on the east side of 81 has morphed into a mass of poorly planned, ill-conceived, clusterf*** of unbridled “development”. Besides the arduous burden of the cities poorly planned traffic engineering, you now have to contend with a huge influx of people going to the most agregiously conceived and implemented strip mall in the area.

    If people really want nightmare traffic ala NOVA, well they are going to get it. Try going from downtown to Massanutten along Rt. 33 between 5 and 6 pm. It will take you an hour to do it nowadays.

    The county has already laid out it’s plans for development here:
    http://www.rockinghamcountyva.gov/showpage.aspx?PageID=237

    Of course.. they have a habit of changing them as well.

  21. Seth says:

    “Try going from downtown to Massanutten along Rt. 33 between 5 and 6 pm. It will take you an hour to do it nowadays. ”

    go out old furnace until it connects with indian trail. that connects where cross keys rd comes into 33. won’t get you all the way to massanutten but it will replace some of the heaviest traffic through town with a less time consuming, more serene drive through the country. for those of us who avoid the ill-conceived parts, i think hburg will continue to be a nice place to live.

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