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Bumpy Road for Gov's Transportation Plan

Traffic backup on I-95 North at the intersection with the Downtown Expressway in Richmond. Courtesy of Virginia Department of Transportation.
Traffic backup on I-95 North at the intersection with the Downtown Expressway in Richmond. Courtesy of Virginia Department of Transportation.
February 13, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. - The fate of Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation plan, "Virginia's Road to the Future," is now in the hands of the state Senate.

It's been a winding road, with various versions of the $3 billion proposal floating around and, while a recent poll shows Virginians favor McDonnell's two-to-one, some worry the plan isn't balanced.

Trip Pollard, director of land and community programs for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said it would switch from what he calls a "user fee approach" to eliminating the gas tax and relying on money from the state's general fund.

"Those who use the roads less could often subsidize transportation for those who use it more by shifting from a gas tax approach to more of a sales tax approach," he said.

Heather Crislip, president and chief executive of Housing Opportunities Made Equal of Virginia, said it's important that any transportation plan includes a big boost in funding for mass transit. She cited a shortage of bus routes connecting low-income people to areas where there are entry-level jobs.

"We would like to see more efforts at regional planning to connect those dots, between affordable housing and entry-level jobs," she said.

The plan has some positive elements, Pollard said, such as increased revenue for mass transit and funds for passenger rail. However, he said, historically, too much money has been used only for costly road projects. He said he would like to see a more balanced approach.

The full state Senate is expected to take up the transportation bill today.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA