Virginia House of Delegates Republican leadership, members and candidates on Thursday called on Governor Terry McAuliffe to shelve his proposed I-66 tolling plan at a press conference in Falls Church. Republicans outlined their opposition to Governor McAuliffe’s plan to levy new tolls without adding new lane capacity on I-66 and use the toll revenue for low-priority pedestrian and bike improvements.
“No one who has ever driven on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway questions the need for congestion relief, but the proposal put forward by Governor McAuliffe is fundamentally flawed,” said Speaker Howell (R-Stafford). “Charging Virginians for the privilege of sitting in traffic without using that money to add new capacity leaves the real problem – congestion – completely unsolved. Governor McAuliffe should shelve this proposal and work with the General Assembly, local governments, and commuters to create a plan to provide real congestion relief.”
“Virginians want to know that the money they pay in taxes is used wisely,” said House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights). “Unlike the federal government, the Commonwealth cannot print money and has to balance its budget. We have passed major transportation reforms in the last few years to make sure every penny of transportation money is used as it was meant to be used — to fix transportation. This plan completely misplaces priorities and will fail to provide real congestion relief. The Governor should go back to the drawing board.”
“Traffic congestion is a quality of life issue. Drivers in Northern Virginia spend 82 hours per year sitting in their cars when they could be with their families,” said House Republican Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo, (R-Fairfax). “The cost is enormous, more than $4.5 billion per year in the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, or about $150 per month per driver. Governor McAuliffe’s plan is all tolls with no congestion relief.”
“Northern Virginia is the economic engine of our Commonwealth. Putting a $17 fee on one of our major commuter routes without using that money to add capacity is a signal to business that not only is Virginia unserious about fixing traffic problems, but also is willing to use commuters — their employees — as an ATM for pet projects,” Hugo said.
“A $17 per-day toll on commuters just trying to get to work would be outrageous even if it was going to double or triple the capacity of I-66 inside the beltway,” said House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas). “Asking commuters from Prince William, Manassas, Fairfax and Loudoun to pay such an outrageous amount for the privilege of sitting in the same unmoving lanes of traffic so Arlington can have nice new bike paths is unconscionable. Drivers who use both I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road could be stuck with $9,000 per year in fees. Governor McAuliffe’s plan is a nonstarter.”
“It’s a mistake that the McAuliffe Administration continues to pursue this project without providing the public with a congestion reduction impact statement, as required by law. The fact that the Governor seems to believe this plan is somehow exempt or excluded from this requirement is concerning,” said Del. Jim LeMunyon (R-Fairfax). “The General Assembly acted to require that significant projects be rated according to the their congestion reduction impact because the public has a right to know whether their tax dollars will be spent in ways that actually reduce congestion or squandered on things that might sound good, but don’t do any good.”
“One wonders whether the reason this project has not been rated for its congestion reduction impact is because transportation officials already know the answer – not much,” said LeMunyon. “This plan needs to be scrapped and replaced with one developed with the goal of creating congestion relief, not Lexus lanes.”
Republican legislators and candidates attending the press conference included Speaker Howell, Majority Leader Cox, Chairman Hugo, Whip Miller, Delegate Dave Albo (R-Fairfax), Delegate Dave LaRock (R-Loudoun), Delegate Bob Marshall (R-Prince William), Sean Lenehan (R-46), Chuong Nguyen (R-87), Craig Parisot (R-32), Anna Urman (R-43), Danny Vargas (R-86) and Sang Yi (R-37).