Roads and the State
Potholes. Tall grass. Traffic. Unpainted lane markings and pedestrian crossings. Roadside trash. Traffic calming. My staff and I are peppered with complaints at meetings and in phone calls and emails. We are a conduit for funneling these complaints to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) but we have neither the authority nor the funding to resolve them.
Since the Depression year of 1932, the state has been responsible for road construction and maintenance. (Only two counties—Henrico and Arlington—opted to keep that responsibility at the time that the state secondary road system was established. Virginia cities, however, are responsible for road construction and maintenance.)
For some time, the General Assembly has dealth with Virginia’s fiscal issues by steadily cutting funding to VDOT. Despite our local state leaders’ efforts to fund transportation, the statewide General Assembly has cut road construction funds to almost nothing and maintenance funding is now at a crisis point. As a matter of fact, VDOT released a press release encouraging volunteer mowing after its annual mowing budget was slashed in half. The headline might as well have been You Want it Done, Do it Yourself.
We got a good look at how bad the situation is last week at the Board of Supervisors’ public hearing on the Proposed Virginia Department of Transportation Six-Year Secondary System Construction for Fiscal Years 2011 through 2016. The amount allocated to Fairfax County roads is $1,989. That’s less than two thousand dollars for six years to cover 395 square miles and more than a million people. In 2003, the Six-Year Program allocated $138 million to Fairfax County; in 2004 it was $153 million. But by 2005, we saw a steep downward trend.
Where do we go from here?
Some have asked if Fairfax County could do a better job of maintaining roads and managing traffic than VDOT. At the same time, the state appears eager to hand off or devolve its road responsibility to local governments. Without adequate funding transferred to localities, we’d be left holding the bag with nowhere to go but to the taxpayers. That is completely unacceptable to me. Since the devolution train seems to be moving down the track, the Board’s Transportation Committee (that I chair) is studying this issue. We’re looking at what options we might take on if the state lives up to its responsibilities and provides adequate funding.
In This Issue of Supervisor McKay's Lee District Update: