Call for Fundamental Reevaluation of Virginia Transportation and Land Use

For Immediate Release: June 20, 2008
Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437 (c)
Trip Pollard, SELC, 434-977-4090
Lisa Guthrie, VALCV, 804-225-1902

Conservation and Smart Growth Groups Call for Fundamental Reevaluation of Virginia Transportation and Land Use

Energy Challenge is an Opportunity to Design a Different Program Say Groups in Reaction to Transportation Funding Debate

(Richmond, VA) Following Governor Kaine’s release of his transportation funding proposal, Virginia conservation and smart growth groups commended the Governor’s increased focus on transit, freight and passenger rail and the effort to tie some limited funding to urban development areas, but argued that the Governor and legislature need to make more fundamental changes to the state transportation program.

“New money, and existing funding for that matter, must go for new ideas – a new product line,” said Chris Miller, President of the Piedmont Environmental Council. “Virginians need a commitment from the Governor and legislature that a funding package will not be advanced until there is a fundamental reevaluation of VDOT’s long range transportation plans to reflect a world of significantly higher gas prices.”

VDOT’s plans are based on much lower gas prices than are being experienced today.  They are also based on an assumption of steadily increasing vehicle miles traveled (VMT) when in just a few short months VMT has already fallen 4.3% nationally in reaction to higher fuel costs.  The groups called for a reevaluation of the statewide VTRANS 2025 plan, the Northern Virginia Transact 2030 plan, other metropolitan regional plans, and major project studies.

“Too many Virginia families are facing economic stress because we failed to design our communities and transportation systems to offer alternatives to driving for every trip.  More than ever our economic competitiveness and ability to ship goods and attract workers will depend on having lower energy and infrastructure costs.  But Virginia’s economy and Virginia’s families will remain vulnerable if the state continues to subsidize scattered, auto-dependent development patterns,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

“The Governor is on the right track with his new Sub-Cabinet on Community Investment, ‘tasked with promoting smart, sustainable growth by ensuring that state funds are invested in projects that reduce suburban sprawl,’” said Lisa Guthrie, Executive Director of the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, “but the place to start changing priorities is with the billions of dollars we spend each year on transportation.”

Trip Pollard, director of the Land and Community Program at the Southern Environmental Law Center stated, “With high gas prices we must provide more transportation choices and make revitalization of existing communities, mixed-use, transit-oriented and walkable communities, and transit, passenger and freight rail top priorities. And instead of bypass highways and super-wide arterial roads, we will need better local street networks that more safely accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists.”

“The energy crisis and climate change make it more important than ever that we buy the right transportation system for the next 50 to 100 years.  We have a great opportunity to reconsider legacy projects and to make the fiscally prudent investments for the future.  That is why we consider the fundamental reevaluation of VDOT’s program a critical prerequisite to any funding deal,” concluded Guthrie.