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Traffic fixes lack financial support

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Matt Kelly was geared up for Monday night’s Fredericksburg Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting.

The FAMPO Policy Committee chairman and Fredericksburg councilman believes there is a fundamental problem in long-range transportation planning: No one wants to talk about how to pay for the needed work to stem the region’s congestion problems.

He figures the region has roughly $1 billion in long-range transportation projects tentatively on the books, but no real plan to fund them.

Although Kelly conceded that raising taxes is one obvious way to close the gap, he didn’t want the conversation to be about taxes.

He wanted to open up the topic for debate.

“We’ve got a big gap,” Kelly told the committee. “How are we gonna fill the gap?”

Committee members didn’t have any suggestions.

All they talked about was the idea of raising taxes in what turned out to be a brief discussion that left Kelly frustrated.

“We are basically not even treading water” on long-range funding, Kelly told the committee.

Fredericksburg representative Fred Howe suggested that if tax increases were to be considered, maybe the best way to handle it would be with referenda, so the public would have a say.

Stafford County representative Gary Snellings said he’d want to talk it over with the Board of Supervisors before moving forward with any specifics. He added that localities need some way to rein in developers, noting that as the laws are now, the supervisors have no way to stop them.

Spotsylvania County representatives David Ross and Tim McLaughlin didn’t like the idea at all. Why, they asked, would anyone bring up a possible tax increase on the heels of the recent hike related to the $3.5 billion statewide transportation bill?

“I’ve got a feeling that Spotsylvania’s gonna be against this,” said McLaughlin.

“Everybody’s asking for more projects,” said Kelly. “Nobody’s talking about how we’re gonna pay for them.”

After the meeting, Ross and McLaughlin said the region can’t pave its way out of the congestion problem.

Instead, they said different approaches like increasing teleworking options and moving the commuter-based employment centers from the Northern Virginia and Washington area are ways to address the region’s traffic problems.

Kelly said those ideas can help and would address part of the problem. But, he said, they don’t address the “whole picture” of the congestion problem, and somebody’s still going to have to pay for those solutions.

In other action, FAMPO:

Voted to shift $940,440 from a planned project at the State Route 160 interchange on Interstate 95 in Caroline County to the Rappahannock River Crossing. The Caroline interchange project lacked necessary funding to continue at this point.

The river-crossing project, still in the study and design phase, would improve the I–95 interchanges at U.S. 17 in Stafford and State Route 3 in Fredericksburg. It also would add collector–distributor roads along I–95 between the exits.

Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436

sshenk@freelancestar.com

 

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