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Forum LockedUsing HOT lane toll $ for VRE

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EricWeissWashPost View Drop Down
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    Posted: 27 Feb 2008 at 2:37pm

The state is now looking to reduce the number of commuter buses to be purchased with HOT lane tolls from 184 to 76 and spend millions on VRE rail cars dedicated to the Fredericksburg line.

What do folks think about that?
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CallmeMrSlug View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CallmeMrSlug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Feb 2008 at 12:17am
Basically, what this move is telling me is the state knows people can't afford the HOT lanes, that they will clog up the main lanes if they drive on them, and so they are forcing the middle class folks onto trains instead of HOT since free HOV will not exist because capacity won't allow HOV3 to ride free in HOT and the contractor to still make a profit. And since the contract they will sign will not allow the state to build another road which competes with the HOT lanes, the only thing the state can do is throw the folks who live far out under the train, oops, I mean on the train.

Having said my little rant there, VDOT really needs to explore at least two express trains from Fredericksburg/Stafford if that is the plan. No stops until Crystal City, then L'Enfant and then Union Station. A co-worker of mine who commutes from Baltimore to DC on the Marc express gets to the office in about 45 minutes. If you are going to shaft the Stafford/Frederickburg folks with the price of HOT, don't just give people more cars, give them express trains.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Cavvie Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Feb 2008 at 8:55am
Eric,

I am adamantly opposed to this because bus rapid transit and HOV are the ways to move people given the nature of service VRE provides. But I am more opposed to it because bus rapid transit was the concept by which this project was sold to the citizens of Northern Virginia. But having said that, this doesn't really surprise anyone in the commuting population. As usual, the Commonwealth will make concession after concession to ensure Flour and Transurban get a nice fat profit, of which RIchmond will get a cut to spend on pork projects somewhere else. Bottom line is VDOT and our elected representatives in Richmond are looking out for Fluor and Transurban, not the citizens of Virginia. Now that the contract has been signed, suddenly all the promises will slowly begin to change. Promises such as "guaranteed 55 MPH" to "45 MPH" and now "plenty of buses with plenty of bus stops" to cutting the numbers by half. To VDOT, a promise is not a promise. Here is the next promise to go. HOV-3 will remain toll-free. HOV is now an unsubsidized form of mass transit receiving no money from the Commonwealth and therefore not controlled by the Commonwealth in any substantial way. The contract between Fluor/Transurban and Virginia will now require the Commonwealth to pay 70% of the existing toll for HOV vehicles. This results in non-subidized HOV becoming government subsidized and under Commonwealth control. The result of this is that HOV can now be eliminated by the Commonwealth at VDOT and Transurban's request simply be eliminating the funding for HOV vehicles. With the signature of a pen, HOV-3 disappears overnight and there will be nothing you or I can do about it. When it happens, and it will happen, maybe you can write a story in the Post and tell everyone they were warned way back in 2007/2008. Wait a few years and Richmond will kill HOV and spend that money somewhere else. When it comes to Northern Virginia and transportation, they always do. Remember, the same people responsible for the Springfield Mixing Bowl disaster on February 12th are the same people negotiating with Fluor and Transurban for toll lanes. That should scare everyone to death. It does me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n/a Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Feb 2008 at 2:06pm
Let me see if I get this right:

We, the taxpayers/commuters, will be paying a toll to drive on roads that have been already built and funded by our tax dollars, and those tolls will be used to purchase VRE cars that we can pay again to ride if we can't afford the toll on HOT?

So we get to pay once to build the road (taxes), again to drive on the road (tolls), again to buy the VRE car(VDOT shopping spree), and again to ride on the VRE car(fares)? It sounds like we are and will be paying at least four times for the same commute. How again is HOT supposed be a good thing?

Sounds like highway robbery to me!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n/a Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Feb 2008 at 2:16pm
On a more serious note: I'm sure former President Eisenhower is turning over in his grave as his legacy and gift to the US citizens, the National Interstate Highway System, is hijacked by local DOT adminsitrations looking for a short-term solution to their long-term budget problems. In this case, VDOT is selling out the present and future rights to charge tolls on our public highways, in exchange for present-day-value budget shortfall fixes. I suspect that VDOT will face similar budget problems in the future, but will have nothing left to sell to raise the needed funds. Of course, by then the current administration will have retired and left these problems for future generations to solve.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote CallmeMrSlug Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Feb 2008 at 8:45am
Raymond

If you check out the Federal Highway Administration web site, they clearly are the ones pushing toll roads with variable pricing nationwide. It is not local as much as it is Bush and Mary Peters his Secretary of Transportation. The Federal government finances at least 80% of the cost (and in some cases 90% or more) of most highway construction from the Federal Highway Trust Fund which is really the depository for the Federal gas tax. States essentially compete for funding from the Trust Fund. A precondition of you standing in line and qualifying for those funds is you have to match the state portion of a transportation project. So, it is really not a local problem.

Virginia's problem is that for almost 15 years now, Virginia never gets in line to get any Federal money for transportation because it does not raise the 20% revenue to qualify and compete for the Federal funding for transportation. No new tax politicians have effectively ruined any chance to build new roads, or to improve existing ones. To me, that philosophy is penny wise, pound foolish. If I told you I would give you 800,000 dollars if you would chip in 200,000 dollars, and let you build a nice home, you would think that was a pretty good deal, now wouldn't you? The politicians in Virginia consistently pass on the competition for transportation dollars and allow the current decaying roads to get worse. By the time they ALL need repair, or people start falling into rivers from bridges, they will be out of office and it will be the next poor sucker of a politician to deal with their mess. The leigslature is filled with coward who choose to be political rather than do what is best for Virginia.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote n/a Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Feb 2008 at 10:33am
I agree with you, MrSlug, about VA politicians who do not do what is best for ALL of VA. NOVA has been carrying the rest of the state on our taxpaying backs for years, especially with regard to roads, and I think Richmond likes it that way. The same criticism can be applied to VA administrators like VDOT's Barbara Reese, an accountant who is posing as contract negotiator, and selling out our transportation rights without oversight by VA taxpayers. The problem here is that VDOT admins forgot who they work for; VDOT administrators do not work for the accountants like Reese, they work for VA residents. Where is the mechanism to restore accountability for these betrayals? Where is the taxpayer voice in these decisions?
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