Candidates Talk Transportation (Part 3/5)

Jeremy Aldrich -- May 25th, 2010

Candidates for the 26th District House of Delegates race spent time answering questions generated from a discussion among hburgnews readers.  This is the third video in a series.

More background:

Most Virginians know about VDOT, the state agency responsible for building and maintaining roads.  Many don’t realize, however, that VDOT is actually one of four agencies under the budgetary control of the Commonwealth Transportation Board. The CTB decides which transportation projects to fund.

Budget cuts in recent years have resulted in major staff reductions for VDOT and other state transportation agencies, and many are concerned about the state’s ability to maintain current roads and bridges as well as keep up with population growth around the state.  Locally, major areas of concern include congestion on Interstate 81 (resulting in frequent accidents) and the expansion of the road near the new Rockingham Memorial Hospital campus.

Image by M.V. Jantzen.

28 Responses to “Candidates Talk Transportation (Part 3/5)”

  1. Dave Briggman says:

    Holy cow…on the one hand, Tony Wilt doesn’t want to raise taxes, but “we need to look for more revenue streams”…not willing to commit to moving money to fund transportation.

    WSVA informs me he has committed to June 3rd on the radio…I hope some of you will ask well-developed and well-placed questions…that show may provide the deepest penetration into the electorate.

    Good knows the DNR and WHSV aren’t covering the election.

    We, as a community, are going to be screwed.

  2. republitarian says:

    If the average person uses $30 in fuel a week and the gas tax is raised by a nickel…over a year’s time you would pay an extra $80 in tax. Carolyn, Emmett and former senator Miller are right. The fuel tax is the most direct user fee we can put on the roads and is proportionate to the use of one person or business.

    Tony Wilt’s big concrete trucks will pay more to operate and they should…because they do the most damage. It is by far the fairest way to go.

  3. republitarian says:

    It should read

    “If the average person uses 30 gallons of fuel in a week.”

  4. Dave Briggman says:

    Except that as cars continue to become more fuel efficient, there will be an almost constant need to raise the gas tax, which is why tolling is actually the best way to go…

    An out of state visitor’s car may be so fuel efficient, that they may not need to gas up in Virginia, but if they want to go through Virginia, interstate highways tolls are the way to go.

  5. republitarian says:

    Most people when traveling the interstates don’t make a conscious decision to avoid buying fuel in a certain state. They generally fuel up when they’re empty or want a snack. Furthermore, what about local traffic? Like Carolyn said, it cost more to just collect the revenue. Why incur the cost?

  6. Dave Briggman says:

    There are unmanned toll plazas on the Dulles toll road…however the revenue obtained through tolling would be constant dollars and would require less frequent increases that a fuel tax would.

    I doubt many people would choose traveling Route 11, as opposed to 81. Route 11 is also, formerly, a toll road.

  7. The massive traffic backups at toll plazas on I-81 would make the old I-95 Richmond toll plaza backups look like a day at the park. The Dulles Tollway is a private for-profit venture that does no more than pay off the note for it’s own construction. It costs drivers $4.50 to travel 13 miles. Everyone who supports toll plazas should have to commute on the DT for a year. It would cure them of their support.

    I applaud Ms. Frank for her courage in calling toll plaza’s a bad idea, and endorsing the gas tax.

    Kai Degner said it – we need to plan for a future beyond the car.

  8. Dave Briggman says:

    Tolling technology doesn’t require toll booths…and generally, the only backups at toll booths are in university towns once or twice a year. I’ve observed cars blow through toll gates in PA, NJ, NY, and CT at almost full speed.

    I’m not talking about the private toll road between Dulles and Leesburg, I’m talking about the Dulles Toll Road ( http://www.mwaa.com/tollroad/toll.htm ).

  9. Renee says:

    I’m getting a little tired of Wilt saying once he gets to Richmond he’ll figure it out. I believe the information he would need to form an opinion is publicly available.

    I thought Frank and Degner gave answers that showed they had thought this question through thoroughly and I appreciate how specific Frank got in her answer about the gas tax and tolls.

  10. Dave Briggman says:

    Renee, you’re not going to get any more from Mr. Wilt…he doesn’t need to give specific answers to be elected…it is sad, but unfortunately, quite true.

    • Renee says:

      That’s probably true. I’m sure he’s been instructed to say as little as possible, and just ride on the “R” next to his name.

      • Frank J Witt says:

        Kinda like Pelosi saying “we have to pass it to see what’s in it”…or what the leaders are saying about the Az. immigration law BEFORE THEY READ IT……but what do I know…..

        • Lowell Fulk says:

          It’s actually a lot the same Frank, and if you’re honestly pissed about one at the national level, you should be in this instance as well. Now, here’s the question Frank, are you honest in your dismay? Or are you simply partisan?
          Who will you choose to support?

  11. BANDIT says:

    I still say, Kai has the best vision for the future…Carolyn Frank JUMPS ON THE OLE BAND WAGEN of “Let’s tax the gas.”(How many times have you heard that?) And Wilt says he has to get there first before he knows anything.(does that mean he hasn’t been paying attention at all?)

  12. republitarian says:

    Just what is Kai’s vision to fix roads and bridges, Benny?

  13. Dave Briggman says:

    Bicycles, railroads, windmills, and solar, Myron.

  14. republitarian says:

    Okay, but where are you going to get the money for that, plus fix our current roads and bridges. He’s saying what we need to do….but not mentioning how to pay for it.

  15. Dave Briggman says:

    I’ve not seen ANY candidate get down and lay out specific pieces of legislation they’re going to offer.

    Your candidate, Myron, wants to wait until he gets to Richmond before he even knows about anything.

  16. kuato says:

    I just moved out here from Richmond a couple of years ago. Toll plazas are a TERRIBLE idea. Anyone who tells you that they are not inconvenient simply lacks experience with toll plazas. They are expensive, they require maintenance, and they stop traffic dead in the morning and early evening. That has been my experience living in several locations with toll plazas across the country. A gas tax is painless by comparison.

  17. Jon says:

    Have you ever traveled on the PA Turnpike and exited at Breezewood? On a holiday weekend? I rest my case. Go with the gas tax if you have to, but tolls will be nothing but a pain and raise no revenue for the first 20 years because of infrastructure costs.

  18. Ray says:

    If the gas tax does go up to pay for transportation I think they should also raise the licensing fees (both initial tag purchase and renewal) for highly fuel effecient vehicles such as hybrids, smart cars, etc. so those drivers can pay their fair share too. After all, if they’re not buying as much fuel at the higher rates then they’re getting a free ride.

  19. Lowell Fulk says:

    Tolling all Interstates in Virginia at around one dollar per vehicle would raise over a billion dollars per year, and would bring money into the state from folks passing through on our highways. Virginia residents who make little use of the Interstate system would pay less. A toll is a true user fee. One dollar is not an onerous cost. Smart pass technology works really well to streamline the process.

    Motor fuels tax generates around fifty million dollars a year per penny. How much increase would be needed to match the one dollar toll?

    We have a backlog of transportation infrastructure needs in this state of over one hundred billion dollars through 2025 by 2007 figures.

    A couple of cents per gallon will not solve the issues we face. The rest of the budget cannot be cut to the extent necessary to fund transportation.

    • BANDIT says:

      Yeah!!!…Lowell Fulk for Governor!!!

    • Renee says:

      I’m curious if anyone has the numbers – what is the dollar difference between $1/vehicle on the interstates and, say 3c/gallon on every gallon of gas sold in VA?

      • Renee says:

        Then, of course, there is the difference in expenditures to build & maintain toll booths, too.

        I haven’t made up my mind on which is “better”, but my gut instinct is to think toll booths will just create new problems while trying to solve an old one.

        Currently VA gas tax is about 10c below the national average: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_taxes_in_the_United_States

      • Lowell Fulk says:

        Three cents increase per gallon of the motor fuels tax would be expected to generate one hundred fifty million dollars a year.

        Tolling all Interstate highway in Virginia at one dollar per vehicle would generate over one billion dollars a year.

        The difference would be eight hundred fifty million dollars a year.

  20. Richard says:

    Both options should be considered. The gas tax increase can be implemented quickly without an increase in infrastructure. It also provides incentives to reduce gas and diesel use. However, it doesn’t generate the revenue needed in the long term.
    An interstate toll has significant upfront costs (also creates a lot of jobs), but much better long term revenue expectations. After implementation it may divert some of the long distance traffic away from 81 and Virginia, but the overall anticipated increase in vehicle use may compensate for this. Typically toll roads charge much more for heavy multi-axle vehicles and thus long distance motor carriers will be the one’s most likely to divert onto 77.
    I grew up in upstate New York and used I-80 extensively before the advent of smart passes. I- 80 is a tollroad for most of it’s length east of Chicago. Currently I use toll roads in NJ, PA, and DL that accept smart pass technology. The smart pass is awesome and greatly reduces backups at toll booths.
    If we want I-81 to provide the same level of service it does now, 20 years from now, we need to take the steps now to ensure that it has a viable funding mechanism.
    However, expect traveling I-81 across Virginia to cost upwards of $20 for a passenger vehicle. That would be in line with other cross state toll roads.

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