Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bob for Bonds (and I am, too)

Northern Virginia’s transportation problems quite obviously are nothing new. Though many have claimed the issue is unforgivably complex, if you have agreement on two fundamental assumptions, the debate becomes simple. The assumptions are:

1. Roads need to be built. We already have done all we reasonably can in terms of carpooling and mass transit.

2. Those roads need to be paid for. Ultimately, there’s a price to be paid by someone whether they are the taxpayers or the roads’ users.

Once there’s agreement on these assumptions, there are really only two questions to address: where do we put the roads and what’s the best way of financing those improvements?

Lucky for your, you have me to answer both. (answers below the fold)

Taking the second question first, the best realistic way to finance transportation projects is through the issuance of bonds, and Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed doing just that. Bonds are the smartest way of financing long-term capital improvements like schools and roads, especially when rates are as low as they are now. Check out this study by Brookings for a further discussion.

On the first question, east-west congestion (the source of most of the traffic problems in northern Virginia), would be greatly alleviated by the following:

-Allow carpools into the Dulles access road, and open the existing carpool lane on the toll road to all traffic. Cheap and easy.

-Add a third lane of Routes 29 and 50 from Falls Church through Fairfax akin to the three lanes that currently exist in Arlington. Fairfax needs to get over itself and quit being the bottleneck.

-Add a third lane to Route 7 from the Loudoun County line through Great Falls into Tysons Corner. Again, Fairfax, I’m talking to you.

-Add two lanes to I-66 through Arlington and open it to all traffic. Arlington, too, needs to just suck it up and realize it has an interstate highway running through the county. And when the money is already there for at least one lane (per Rep. Frank Wolf), there’s really no excuse.

Problem solved.

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