Del. Ken Plum (D-Reston) was among a group of house delegates who spoke out in Richmond about Virginia traffic on Monday. Plum called "some of the worst transportation gridlock in the country" and offered bipartisan support to solutions to the problem.
"From the north end of the urban crescent in Northern Virginia - with the third- worst commute in the nation - to the southern end at Virginia Beach with the 18th-worst commute, Virginians pay dearly with the lost time, money, and quality of life because of traffic congestion," Plum said at a news conference held by the House Democratic Caucus.
Among the goals for the House Democrats: To see a 5-percent wholesale gas tax; urban areas having the ability to raise their own transportation money; a method to ensure money for construction isn't carried over to maintenance; and money in the general fund to stay there.
Another issue is rising tolls, a big concern in communities such as Reston that depend on the Dulles Toll Road. The House Democratic Caucus said taxpayers who have already paid for existing roads should not have to pay more tolls on those projects just to fund new ones, such as Phase 2 of Metro's Silver Line.
Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has proposed a transportation plan that includes cutting the gas tax and increasing sales tax to find $3.1 billion for transportation improvements over the next five years.
Plum says this is the year the General Assembly must act on a transportation resolution.
"The message I am getting from my constituents is solve the problem," he said. "They want a solution regardless of who gets the credit—whether it is the Governor, the General Assembly, the Republicans, the Democrats. Stop the legislative gridlock that keeps commuters sitting in traffic gridlock."
Plum said meaningful reform depends on finding common ground and crafting a bill that incoroprates the best of all proposals, adding that there is no silver bullet to fix the problem.
Adequate funding it the key, he says.
"Democrats are ready to draw upon the strengths of the several bills and proposals that have been introduced by both Democrats and Republicans," said Plum. "Measures such as you have heard discussed that have broad-based appeal should be brought together in a substitute bill. We can craft a bill that will ensure that people who make minimal use of the transportation system will not be burdened with its costs. And we do not need to rob other programs."
More on Virginia transportation:
• McDonnell Touts Transportation Plan
• Silver Line Topic Page on Reston Patch
• Why Must Toll Road Users Pay the Most
• Del. Rust Talks Transportation, Tolls at Town Hall Meeting
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