Ralph Northam’s Back-to-the-Future Transportation Plan
Virginia motorists are likely to face higher gas taxes this year, thanks to Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) plan — endorsed and eagerly seconded by General Assembly Democrats — to pump billions of dollars into rail and transit projects.
And some road stuff, too. Can’t expect car drivers to provide increased subsidies to train and transit riders without offering a little fresh asphalt in return.
Northam’s proposal would erase swaths of former governor Robert F. McDonnell’s (R) 2013 transportation bill even as it attempts to tackle the same, intractable problems: too much congestion and not enough money to fix it.
In short, we’re heading back to the future on transportation.
According to The Post’s Luz Lazo, Northam’s transportation package approaches these problems from several angles. The bill’s goals include:
… double passenger rail service over the next decade and new efforts to lower traffic fatalities on state highways, while ensuring the state’s transportation fund remains solvent to support critical transit, including Metro, and infrastructure projects.
Okay, sure, let’s fix up the rail network. But does that require putting the state back into the train business with Amtrak? Apparently so — never mind the commonwealth’s appalling historical track record as a rail investor/owner, and Amtrak’s litany of problems.
But let’s get to the money.
House Bill 1414 proposes to end what turns out to have been a failed experiment at using a sales tax hike (and a host of other taxes and fees) to help pay for transportation.
Transportation experts have long known the per-gallon tax wasn’t going to provide the cash necessary to maintain Virginia’s large road network over the long term. Increased fuel efficiency, economic growth and higher maintenance costs always meant the gas tax would always be playing catch-up.
McDonnell said, “If we stick to the old means of funding transportation, we will find ourselves having the same debates and facing the same revenue shortfalls over and over again.”