Open Letter to Governor Kaine on Land Use, Transportation and Funding

Coalition for Smarter Growth, Piedmont Environmental Council, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Southern Environmental Law Center, Virginia Conservation Network, Virginia Chapter – Sierra Club, Audubon Naturalist Society, Community Alliance for Preservation, Shenandoah Valley Network, RAIL Solution, and Scenic Virginia

May 27, 2008

The Honorable Tim Kaine
Office of the Governor
Patrick Henry Building, 3rd Floor
1111 East Broad Street
Richmond, Virginia 23219

General Assembly of Virginia
910 Capitol Square
Richmond, VA  23219

Re:  Open Letter on Land Use, Transportation and Funding

Dear Governor Kaine and members of the General Assembly:

We are encouraged by your initiatives over the past two years to address Virginia’s land use and transportation challenges.  Public support for better growth management remains at high levels, making your efforts to better link land use and transportation critically important.  Your collective initiatives have included increased support for transit and freight rail, traffic impact studies, urban development areas, land conservation, stronger access management policies and changes to subdivision street standards.

At the same time, the impact of rising energy prices on Virginians’ strained household budgets creates a new imperative to be strategic in our transportation investments and to provide more transportation choices.  Virginia’s transportation funding project lists were generated by the Virginia Department of Transportation in the VTRANS 2025 plan and by Virginia’s regional transportation planning organizations at a time when energy prices were much lower.  The project lists do not account for the impact of record energy prices and were developed without consideration of how more efficient patterns of land use and community design could reduce the burden of auto travel, offer more transportation options, and reduce the amount of transportation infrastructure needed.

Therefore, we believe that tying funding to reevaluation of our transportation and land use plans should be a core component of any transportation funding proposal.  We believe that location efficiency, energy efficiency, and improved “accessibility” to jobs, housing, and services (not merely “mobility” for its own sake) should be the goal of Virginia’s land use, economic development, transportation, and infrastructure policies.  Doing so will ensure that we are prudent with taxpayer resources, energy efficient, and economically competitive.  We need to put new money behind new ideas developed through a more transparent and inclusive public process beginning with local and regional planning processes.

We recommend that you consider incorporating the following requirements in any agreed upon transportation funding package:

1)      Reevaluate the statewide plan, regional plans, and major projects in an open process with the public and in light of significantly higher fuel prices, the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the benefits to be gained from more efficient land use and community design.

2)      Improve the efficiency of the existing transportation system and focus on short-term demand reduction measures before capacity expansion.  These measures should include robust telecommuting programs and broadband investment, access management, transit and carpool incentives, and public road pricing and parking pricing to manage demand on saturated highways in metro regions.  A 5-10% reduction in highway demand can return a highway to free-flowing conditions far more cheaply than a costly expansion project.

3)      Tie funding to performance standards that include improved operational efficiency; reduction in per capita vehicle miles traveled; increased mode share for transit, freight rail, telecommuting, pedestrians/bicycles; and adoption of urban development areas with interconnected streets and new urbanist design principles.  Alternatively, create a significant fund for providing bonus revenues to regions and local governments that reduce travel demand and approve more efficient patterns of development in well-designed Urban Development Areas.

4)      Include funding for technical assistance to local governments and planning district commissions to assist communities with integration and adoption of the new tools approved by the General Assembly and Commonwealth Transportation Board including assistance with access management, city and town revitalization, transit-oriented development, and well-defined UDAs using new urbanist design and “complete streets” with interconnected local street networks.

5)      Require a clear analysis of Virginia highway maintenance spending to allow the public and General Assembly to more fully understand the maintenance situation.  The analysis should include current and trend data on the reported condition of Virginia’s roads, maintenance costs per lane mile for various road types and districts, average life of new and repaired roadways, and the potential for reducing long-term maintenance costs through longer-life roadways (per the European model) and extended warranties by private road contractors who perform the work.

6)      Dedicate significant funds (at least 35% of new funds) to transit, freight rail, intercity passenger rail, bicycle and pedestrian facilities; and significant funds to local street projects to create more transportation options that are energy efficient while reducing traffic on the state’s highways and major arterial roadways.

7)      Transit, passenger rail and freight rail are critical investments in a world of higher energy prices but must be tied to well-planned transit-oriented development and industrial centers to be cost effective.  With over 60% of the state’s population, gross state product, and most of the congestion, the Northern Virginia-Fredericksburg-Richmond-Williamsburg-Hampton Roads rail corridor should be a top state passenger rail priority, while freight rail investments are needed throughout Virginia.


We stand ready to participate in the discussions over the coming weeks leading to the Special Session, and we look forward to working with you to move Virginia forward to an economically and environmentally sustainable future.  Please feel free to contact our lead representatives: Stewart Schwartz, CSG, 703-599-6437; Lisa Guthrie, VALCV, 804-225-1902; or Trip Pollard, 434-977-4090.


(via email; phone numbers provided in lieu of signatures)

Martha Wingfield                                                          Lisa Guthrie
Chair                                                                           Executive Director
Virginia Conservation Network                         Virginia League of Conservation Voters
(804) 644-0283                                                          (804) 225-1902

Stewart Schwartz                                                         Trip Pollard
Executive Director                                                        Land and Community Program Leader
Coalition for Smarter Growth                                       Southern Environmental Law Center
(202) 244-4408                                                           (434) 977-4090

Charles Price                                                               Chris Miller
Chair                                                                            President
Virginia Chapter – Sierra Club                           Piedmont Environmental Council
(804) 225-9113                                                           (540) 347-2334

Stella Koch                                                                  Leighton Powell
Virginia Conservation Officer                            Executive Director
Audubon Naturalist Society                                         Scenic Virginia
(703) 628-6983                                                           804-643-8439

Megan Gallagher                                                          David Foster
Director                                                                        Executive Director
Shenandoah Valley Network                                        RAIL Solution

Kim Sandum
Executive Director
Community Alliance for Preservation
(540) 209-1382