NVTA – a clone of the NVTA?

There’s a tunnel proposed for Tysons, but there’s already tunnel vision at the Northern Virgina Transportation Authority.

They proposed eight principles for the General Assembly’s special session in 2008 to develop a transportation funding package. Reading those principles, it’s hard to distinguish between the government officials organized as the Northern Virgina Transportation Authority (NVTA) and the developer group organized as the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTA).

The NVTA that is a “business/citizen group advocating the funding and construction of long neglected major transportation projects” started with the Apartment and Office Building Association, the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, the National Association of Industrial and Office Parks, the Northern Virginia Board of Realtors and the Northern Virginia Building Industry Association.

Their economic interests are advanced by new transportation projects that are funded through taxes, so it’s not surprising to see that NVTA push for more roads and more transit subsdies.  Transportation projects financed by taxpayers that facilitate new development projects are good for… developers.   

The other NVTA, the Northern Virgina Transportation Authority, consists of elected city and county officials who represent the taxpayers.  They’re the managers you expect to be conscious of “who pays” vs. “who benefits.” 

It’s not surprising to see our local officials claim that state/Federal officials should send more money to Northern Virginia.  Gee, shouldn’t taxpayers who live/vote elsewhere send money to finance transportation projects right here in NVTA-land?  

Oh, life would be so-o-o-o-o good if local officials could cut ribbons on road/transit projects right here without having to raise local taxes.  Why can’t we have Metro stations at Potomac Mills and Gainesville, as well as Tysons and Dulles?  If every one of the 300 million Americans scattered across 5 time zones would sent NVTA just $100/person, we’d have $30 billion to build heavy rail deeper into suburbia. 

Yeah; hold your breath.  Telling Richmond/Washington to send more money is so-o-o-o easy.  Still, it is unnerving to see our local officials fall so deep into that trap, and to create eight principles of NVTA that are exclusively oriented to increasing funding.

There is no acknowledgment that local officials have any responsibility for creating congestion, or reducing the need for extra taxes to build more transportation projects so we can develop more subdivisions that require more transportation projects, ad infinitum

C’mon, it ain’t rocket science – local land use changes are intimately tied to increasing need for new transportation infrastructure.  The City Councils and Boards of County Supervisors in Northern Virginia are the officials who approve the rezonings where new houses are built miles away from jobs. 

Hmmm… think those new developments on the periphery of NOVA might affect the number of cars on the highway? 

If we approve a housing development at the corner of Ashton Avenue and Balls Ford Road with 700+ units and virtually no office space for jobs, we’ll increase the number of rush-hour commuters on I-66 and Sudley Road. If we add more housing units than job opportunities at the intersection of Hoadley Road and Route 234, we’ll increase congestion on Prince William Parkway.

Next time you hear a local elected official complain about inadequate state/Federal funding (perhaps even while blathering about “town centers” and “mixed use development”), ask that official if their land use decisions minimize or exacerbate the problem.

Here’s a suggested funding principle to consider: “Local government officials will minimize the need to fund new roads by steering new development to those locations where transit services already offer reasonable opportunities to commute to work.”

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