Green transportation fix

Story by Chris Graham

It’s not just Republicans who are raising issue with the idea that Virginia needs to come up with more money to fix what Gov. Tim Kaine and other top Democrats have been saying for years is a transportation crisis in the Commonwealth.

The smart-growth community is raising interesting issues with the need for a costly asphalt-based transportation fix in light of $4-a-gallon gas that some analysts are assuming will lead to fundamental changes in the way we travel in the future.

“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,” said Chris Miller, the president of the Warrenton-based Piedmont Environmental Council.

The response of the market to higher gas prices has been a significant reduction in vehicle miles traveled – a 4.3 percent dip nationally, according to one bank of data. As high gas prices persist, it’s going to be a fact of life that we’re going to see those trends continue, and as they do, the existing transportation paradigm will have to be adapted to continue to have any sense of reality to it.

“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,” said Stewart Schwarts, the executive director of the Washington, D.C.,-based Coalition for Smart Growth, who feels Virginians will “remain vulnerable if the state continues to subsidize scattered, auto-dependent development patterns.”

“The energy crisis and climate change make it more important that ever that we buy the right transportation system for the next 50 to 100 years,” said Lisa Guthrie, the executive director of the Richmond-based Virginia League of Conservation Voters.

“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,” Guthrie said.

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