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Cuccinelli reveals roads plan with many changes

RICHMOND—Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli has finally released his transportation proposal, and it’s one that would make a lot of changes in how the state deals with road needs.

Cuccinelli’s plan, posted to his website Monday, proposes a “Virginia Congestion Matrix Database” to decide what road projects get funded.

It also calls for “devolution” of road responsibilities to localities, something local government officials have long feared, largely because past devolution proposals have not come with dollars attached. Localities already can take responsibility for their local roads, but few have chosen to do so.

Cuccinelli also says he’d build more commuter parking lots along the I–95 corridor.

His congestion database, which Cuccinelli said could be developed in six months, would establish local-level “trigger mechanisms” that “quantitatively establish project priorities based on traffic congestion and road capacity.”

Cuccinelli said his database would use measurements of population, volume of licensed drivers, volume of vehicles and motor carriers, vehicle miles traveled, number of businesses, number of road incidents, response times and the age and condition of the roads. The system, he said, would use those figures to rank the state’s 100 most congested roads.

Cuccinelli said past studies of devolution have shown that “localities have neither the funding nor the infrastructure in place to take on ownership of the roads.”

His proposal would phase in devolution, starting with the largest localities with populations over 250,000, such as Prince William, Loudoun, Fairfax and Chesterfield. Later other counties with populations of 100,000 and above, like Stafford and Spotsylvania, would be phased in.

Cuccinelli proposes that those localities receive block grants from the state, equal to what they currently receive for secondary roads, and allow the counties to raise more money on their own. He’d also change the formula used to determine how much money goes to each locality, replacing it with the congestion matrix he’s also proposing and eventually phasing out state secondary road funding. Those localities could lease expensive equipment like snow-removal trucks, and Cuccinelli envisions the state transferring its land assets for secondary roads to the counties.

Cuccinelli describes devolution of road responsibilities as an opportunity for localities to have more local control over their roads. But many local officials have long been leery of it because they feared Richmond would give them the responsibility of roads without the money to pay for them.

“While I support and applaud many of Cuccinelli’s proposals, I have significant concerns regarding devolution and the potential impacts on the region I represent,” said Sen. Richard Stuart, R–Stafford.

In a July Free Lance–Star story about road funding fights, some officials said they were wary of changes to how the state pays for road construction. Rural lawmakers, like Del. Ed Scott, R–Madison, said at the time that they feared changes to the allocation formulas would leave rural areas out in the cold. Congestion-based allocation formulas, they said, didn’t take into account rural areas’ needs for better roads for economic development.

Cord Sterling, Commonwealth Transportation Board member for the Fredericksburg district, said Stafford at one point considered taking on road responsibilities—in the same way that Virginia’s cities do—but decided the state money wouldn’t cover the county’s full costs.

In his newly revealed transporation plan, Cuccinelli also proposes adding more commuter parking and carpool stations, as well as encouraging vanpooling, with an eye toward the large number of commuters in the corridor between Washington and Richmond.

Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe has also expressed support for evaluating road needs based on congestion relief, as well as land-use priorities.

The election is Nov. 5.

Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028

cdavis@freelancestar.com

 

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