In Tysons Corner speech, McDonnell discusses MWAA changes, more transportation funding

Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) stressed the importance of transportation and infrastructure in an address at a transportation conference Wednesday.

McDonnell, calling transportation “an important quality-of-life issue,” spoke to hundreds of transportation officials, legislators and members of the business community gathered for the first day of the three-day Governor’s Transportation Conference in Tysons.

Right outside the hotel where the conference was taking place, construction continued on the Silver Line’s new Metro stations and traffic slowly moved along the Leesburg Pike. McDonnell, who started speaking later than planned, told the crowd that he was late due to traffic heading to Tysons from the airport.

In his remarks, McDonnell discussed the troubled board of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. This agency, which is responsible for construction of the $7 billion Metrorail extension to Tysons and Dulles International Airport, was pilloried in a recent report for ethical lapses.

McDonnell said that when he took office, the agency was “neither responsive nor responsible” in its actions. But he said that in working with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and others, they have brought needed reforms to MWAA and the Silver Line project.

Now, with CEO Jack Potter and new board members, McDonnell said the organization is getting back on track. “It’s a very good board” now, though there is more work to be done, he said.

In his address, McDonnell praised public-private partnerships, citing the opening of the 495 Express Lanes last month as a prime example of how such deals can work. He said such deals are vital going forward for the state as it grapples with declining revenues and increasing needs.

McDonnell said he will be submitting a transportation funding plan during the state’s next General Assembly that he said would generate at least $500 million each year in additional funding by 2018. He offered no specifics about the plan, saying that he would be discussing such details in the coming weeks.

The state currently has $14 billion in projects under construction or being developed, McDonnell said.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said McDonnell is “just talking about spending more money.”

The state has billions of dollars of projects under construction, but much of that is going to highway projects at the expense of secondary roads and improving existing roadways, Schwartz said. More money won’t change that, he said.

“In the end, we think it’s going to pour a lot of money down a black hole,” Schwartz said.

Photo by Bonnie Jo Mount for The Washington Post. Read the original story here.