Saturday, May 7, 2011

Tell the State to Improve U.S. 1

The following column appeared in the Mount Vernon Gazette, Mount Vernon Voice, and on May 7, 2011:

Virginia has announced the draft transportation Six-Year Improvement Plan, a plan that includes the $34 million long-delayed and long-needed widening of Telegraph Road , but there is not a single project or dollar listed in the 22306, 22307, 22308 or 22309 zip codes. Route 1 was left off the list yet again.

Last week, I was one of two state legislators who spoke at the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s (CTB) public hearing on the draft plan. (You can watch video of my comments on my blog, The Dixie Pig at

I made several points. First, I thanked the McDonnell Administration for agreeing to fund the U.S. 1 Transit Study after a six-year wait. This is the first legally-required step to improve U.S. 1. However, none of the legally-required steps after that study were included in the Six-Year Improvement Plan at all.

The Route 1 Transit Study will take three years to complete. A Route 1 Centerline Study must also be completed to confirm the center line of the road. That process involves public hearings and environmental reviews.

Once these two studies are done, VDOT can do preliminary engineering and make right-of-way purchases. Then construction can start. VDOT has neither planned or budgeted for any of these steps.

I argued to the CTB that while there are dozens of million-dollar projects scheduled in the northern and western parts of Fairfax County, the eastern part of Fairfaxs has not and still will not be receiving infrastructure investments necessary to sustain our quality of life, not even a small study.

CTB is accepting public comments until May 27. I am gathering petition signatures asking the Commonwealth Transportation Board to add the Route 1 Centerline Study, preliminary engineering and right-of-way acquisition to the current Six-Year Improvement Plan. Please take two minutes and sign the petition online at

I also encourage you to write directly to the Board. You can find information on the petition site or my blog The Dixie Pig ( as well.

Maintenance, Mowing Lag
By law, regular revenues in the Transportation Trust Fund are distributed to administrative costs first, maintenance second and construction last. The state gas tax is levied in pennies per gallon. As cars have become more efficient and gas prices have risen, people are using less gas per mile and generating less revenue per miles driven.

Plus, while today’s gas tax ($0.175/gal.) is still the same as when I was a sophomore at West Potomac High School in 1987 and gas cost $0.99/gal., now it's almost $4.00 and the cost of concrete, steel, asphalt and labor has gone up. Maintenance has completely consumed the highway construction budget.

Secondary roads are the ones numbered 600 and higher. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) allocates funds to localities every year to construct secondary road improvements. Fairfax County’s secondary road allocation went from $28 million two years ago to $1,800 last year and $0 – zero -- this year. It will remain $0 into the future unless there is a new infusion of revenues. Additionally, road maintenance is being deferred. This includes paving, which is why Fort Hunt Road resembles rumble strips in some patches. Today, there are 2,500 and growing lane miles of substandard secondary roads in Fairfax County.

Spring is here, it’s been raining, and road medians are starting to resemble prairies. Because of funding shortfalls, VDOT has laid off 30 percent of its employees in the last three years and has cut way back on mowing.

One neighborhood association in Stratford contacted me asking to take over maintenance of a right-of-way. VDOT will agree to allow organizations to maintain medians if certain procedures are followed and a formal contract is signed. If your local association would like to look into this, please contact my office and we can connect you with VDOT.

It is an honor to be your state delegate in Richmond.

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