Funding transportation vs… (schools/public safety/you pick the priority)

The Wall Street Journal reported today (“Funds for Highways Plummet As Drivers Cut Gasoline Use”) that “$225 billion a year is needed to meet the country’s transportation infrastructure needs. Current spending is about 40% of that level.”

Think we’ll increase current transportation spending by 150%?  Think the Federal government will just send us a check?  Think the members of the General Assembly/Board of County Supervisors will vote for their share of those taxes? 

The transportation system is aging, and the costs to maintain our existing roads/bridges/rail infrastructure is skyrocketing.  How much more new stuff can we afford to build and then maintain? 

Prince William County will never fund 100% of the transportation wish-list of possible roads, bridges, trains, and trails in TransAction 2030.  That list of potential projects (oops, don’t forget the ferry) is just a list, not mandatory “gotta build” requirements.  That “plan” for the year 2030 was fiscally unconstrained, as if funding would be no problem. 

It’s logical for elected officials to endorse a wish-list.  The tough management decision at the county level comes with the approval of the annual budget (especially the Capital Improvement Plan) and the occasional bond issue. 

We need to increase the short-term supply of lane-miles and VRE locomotives/railcars because there are current congestion headaches to fix in PW County, but we must also start reducing the long-term demand for transportation.   How many roads are enough?  Should VRE grow and grow, like Topsy?

If the only solution is “build more transportation infrastructure,” then taxpayers will be like hamsters on a treadmill that are constantly struggling just to keep up.  If the only discussion is a debate every 20-25 years over how to increase/divert more taxes for roads/transit, then we’re trapped in a rut. 

Starting now, we need to be more conscious about land use planning as a solution to the long-term transportation problem.  Rezoning and building new infrastructure for transit-oriented town centers makes more sense than building more rail/road infrastructure that will subsidize sprawl wa-aaaay out to Culpeper and Front Royal.

(NOTE: Source for the Wall Street Journal news story is the final report from the National Surface Transportation Policy and Revenue Study Commission at http://www.transportationfortomorrow.org).

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1 comment so far

  1. Parker on

    Don’t forget bicycles are real transportation too.


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