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Bob Mcdonnell

Transportation Nation

After Objections, Va. Gov Amends Two-Tiered Transpo Funding Plan

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

(Michael Pope -- WAMU) Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell has offered a compromise on his transportation funding plan in response to a legal objection by the state's attorney general. Virginia needs new and additional revenue for upkeep it's network of highways (about 58,000-miles worth) and mass transit systems. As cars get more fuel efficient, gas tax revenues are falling in many states.

McDonnel has already signed a bill that replaces the state's 17.5 cents-per-gallon retail gasoline tax with a 3.5 percent wholesale tax on gasoline and a 6 percent levy on diesel fuel. That won't change. The portion of the plan under scrutiny involves sales tax.

Virginia attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had raised concerns about a provision that would have levied higher taxes on some more densely populated areas, including Northern Virginia.

The bill members of the General Assembly sent to the Governor's Mansion had a long list of localities from Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads that would have been subject to a higher sales tax rate. The two-tier tax system was intended to raise money for road building, but Cuccinelli said it may have been unconstitutional.

Now the governor has a fix: ditch the parts about the two urban areas and extend the taxing authority to the entire state. McDonnell is sending an amendment back to the General Assembly that would create regional taxing authority to all 21 of the commonwealth's regional planning districts — two of which are Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

That means the other 19 districts could create taxing authorities for transportation dollars if they wanted to, but they don't have to.

The governor's amendments also cut the controversial $100 fee on hybrid cars to $64 a year, cut taxes paid on hotel stays, and reduced the titling tax on vehicle purchases.

McDonnell's 52 amendments will be considered by the General Assembly in a veto session April 3rd.

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Transportation Nation

As Virginia Debates Transportation Funding Plan, EVs Put Gas Tax Under Microscope

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Chevy Volt at the 2012 NY International Auto Show (photo by Kate Hinds)

As both chambers of the Virginia General Assembly prepare to work to find common ground after passing different versions of Governor Bob McDonnell’s major transportation funding plan, critics say the governor’s proposal to eliminate the state gas tax and replace it with a higher sales tax would not provide enough revenue to satisfy the state’s transportation needs.

On Monday the House gave preliminary approval to a measure that keeps most of McDonnell’s proposals intact, including eliminating the state’s 17.5 cents-per-gallon gasoline tax.  In the Senate, a key Republican lawmaker is proposing a different solution: a 5.5 percent sales tax on the wholesale price of gasoline tied to inflation.

The bill approved by the House killed the governor’s plan to impose a $100 registration fee on alternative fuel vehicles.  The proposals are scheduled for a final vote today.

The McDonnell administration argues higher fuel efficiencies continue to eat into gas tax revenues so the tax should be replaced, especially as the adoption of hybrid and electric cars is expected to reduce gas consumption.

The latest hybrid and electric models are currently on display at the Washington Auto Show, where proponents say they have become much more practical for everyday use since the first generation models.

Mahi Reddy, the founder of SemaConnect, a manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations based in Bowie, Maryland, says EVs are indeed becoming more popular, although they only represent less than one percent of all vehicles on the road today.

“Previous generations of electric cars struggled because they used lead-acid batteries. They used nickel-metal hydride batteries,” Reddy said. “The new generation all use lithium batteries, the same lithium technology that is in your cell phone. So that means these batteries are much lighter, they have much more range, and these cars are much better engineered so they are practical cars you can use to commute to the office.”

In his view, the biggest obstacle facing EVs is the lack of charging stations.

A report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments found our region has strong potential for EV growth, but an "underdeveloped charging network" is one of several problems.

But while the governor views improving fuel efficiency as a reason to dump the gas tax altogether, the Council of Governments executive director Chuck Bean takes the opposite position.

“In terms of transportation funding all of the options need to be on the table; gas tax, sales tax. We are really in a crisis of transportation funding and need to be very creative,” Bean said. “I would hesitate to reverse or eliminate any taxes because there is simply a great need for more funding.”

The potential of these vehicles does raise another potential challenge to funding transportation: as the U.S. vehicle fleet is comprised of more EVs and regular vehicle fuel standards improve, the gas tax will lose even more of its purchasing power. That would leave states looking for other revenue streams like higher tolls, more borrowing, higher vehicle fees, or higher sales or property taxes to pay for roads and rails.

The smart growth community says there is no way for Virginia to build its way out of its infamous traffic congestion and taht the solution lies in changing land use policies and urban planning strategies to maximize the potential for transit, walking, and bicycling.

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Troy KO's Transit Center, Palo Alto Opposes California Bullet Train, and Beijing Airport Will Soon Be World's Busiest

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top stories on TN:
Sweating Bullets: Body Scanners Can See Perspiration as a Potential Weapon (Link)
Real Time Train Arrival Info Coming to LIRR (Link)
NY Senator Schumer: Transit Tax Benefits Dying in End-of-Year Congressional Frenzy (Link)
Where Astronauts Do Their Christmas Shopping (Link)
The Ten Worst Holiday Bottlenecks in the New York Area (Link)
Straphangers Campaign Top-10 Worst (And Best) NYC Transit Moments of 2011 (Link)

Beijing Capital Airport (photo by John K via Flickr)

Troy turns down a regional transit center, passing on federal funds to build it. (Detroit News)

Who will be the next head of the FAA? Guesses abound. (Politico)

A report by the New York MTA's Inspector General takes the agency to task for mistakes during the 2010 blizzard -- but says it's better prepared for a storm now. (New York Daily News)

Beijing Capital Airport will soon be the world's busiest airport -- and China is preparing for the coming passenger influx by building airports built big and well-staffed. (Marketplace)

The Maryland Transit Administration says it has to raise Baltimore-area transit fares by 40 percent jump in order to meet state revenue goals without cutting service. (Baltimore Sun)

Virginia's governor wants to shuffle millions of dollars from public schools and health care to his top priorities of pension reform, higher education and transportation. (Washington Post)

The city of Palo Alto formally opposes California's high-speed rail project. (Mercury News)

The expedited Lake Champlain Bridge went over budget, but some say it was worth it. (Burlington Free Press)

Two rapping teachers protest cuts to California's school transportation budget. Sample lyric: I teach little children/I don't mean to cuss/but how in the @#! will kids get to school without a bus? (Good)

Want to buy the apartment of the former head of New York's MTA? (New York Times)

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It's A Free Country ®

Fresh Endorsements: Sununu Supports Romney, Forbes Favors Perry

Monday, October 24, 2011

Former New Hampshire Governor and White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu announced today that he would endorse Mitt Romney for the GOP presidential nomination, while business mogul Steve Forbes came out in support of Rick Perry over the weekend.

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Transportation Nation

How Politics Doomed Dulles Airport's Underground Subway Station

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Dulles Airport (photo by Bobby Hidy via Flickr)

(Washington D.C. - WAMU) The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has reversed its controversial decision to build an underground Metro Station at Dulles Airport.

Everyone on both sides of the battle over this decision --- the Airports Authority and Virginia's political leaders -- agree an underground station would be more convenient for travelers. And yet, with the Authority's vote today, that won't be happening.

"I will be embarrassed that the international gateway airport for the capital of my country has a slipshod station like this, says Bob Brown, a federal appointee to the Airports Board. "This is an embarrassment and an outrage, I'm sorry to say that."

The underground option that the Airports Authority chose in April would've cost almost half a billion dollars more than an above ground alternative, and the Board was under tremendous political pressure to reverse course.

Tom Davis, a Airports Board member and former Congressman, voted against the underground option in April, but says he understands why Brown and his other colleagues pushed so hard for it.

"Bob is looking at this from a visionary point of view -- where do you want this airport to be in 50, 75 years," says Davis. "And I think, all things being equal, I would've been with him."

However, Davis says in this financial climate, and in an election year in Virginia, it was just not possible to win over the political leaders who'd have to pay the extra cost. The underground station, Davis says, is just a victim of circumstance.

But now that the matter of where the Metro station should go has been decided, the negotiations are far from over. In fact, you could say the negotiations have only just begun.The Airports Authority agreed to drop its plans for an underground Metro station only on the condition that Virginia contribute an additional 150 million dollars to the Dulles Metrorail project. Without this money, Authority officials say they can’t make the project’s financial ends meet.

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell says he won’t even discuss contributing more money until the Airports Authority makes changes to its labor agreement, passed in April. It requires all contractors working on the project to conform to union-level standards for wages, benefits and skills.

The Authority says this will streamline the project's operations, but McDonnell says the agreement might violate Virginia’s right-to-work laws.

For more, visit WAMU News.

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Transportation Nation

FTA Head: McDonnell To Pitch In $150 Million More To Dulles Metrorail

Friday, July 08, 2011

(Washington D.C. - WAMU) Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell may be pitching in more money to the Dulles Metrorail project, despite his recent complaints that its cost has grown too high.

Leaders at the local and state level in Virginia say they're worried the rising cost of the project will force fees on the Dulles Toll Road to rise painfully high. Money from tolls is paying for a large chunk of the plan to build a new Metro line to Dulles Airport.

Federal Transit Administrator Peter Rogoff says, in the past few days, the McDonnell administration has told him it would contribute an additional $150 million to keep the tolls down.

McDonnell's transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton, won't confirm the offer, but he says it is one of the options under consideration.

Rogoff and other federal officials are working to mediate a dispute over the cost of the project between Northern Virginia's elected leaders and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Rogoff says if the dispute isn’t resolved soon, it could kill the plan.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Boston's Pricey Cabs, BART Clears A San Jose Hurdle, and Privatizing The Tappan Zee?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Boston cab (photo by SPBer via Wikimedia Commons)

Radio Boston (WBUR) tries to figure out why that city's cabs are the most expensive in the nation.

The five-decade-long quest to bring BART to San Jose cleared a major hurdle yesterday, when the Federal Transit Administration recommended that it receive $130 million in federal funds this year -- clearing the way for construction to begin in 2012. (Mercury News)

A state commission charged with shoring up Maryland’s cash-strapped transportation improvement fund has proposed raising more than $800 million in increased fees -- and called on state leaders not to take money from the system to plug other holes in the budget. (Baltimore Business Journal)

The Takeaway talks to an economist who says that despite negative perceptions, cities make us better -- and happier.

It's too expensive to maintain New York's Tappan Zee Bridge. It's too expensive to replace it. So politicians are looking at how private companies might provide a solution. (Wall Street Journal)

NY City Council Speaker Christine Quinn will propose changes to parking rules in her State of the City speech today. (WNYC)

An Ecuardorean judge fined Chevron $9 billion in a decade-long pollution case. (Marketplace)

The FAA said that U.S. airline-passenger numbers will reach 1 billion in fiscal 2021 -- two years sooner than projected -- because of improved economic growth. (Washington Post)

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee kicked off their reauthorization field hearings/public listening sessions in West Virginia, where some attendees wanted to talk about raising the gas tax. (Charleston Gazette)

Virginia Senator Mark Warner said that Governor Bob McDonnell's plan to pump nearly $3 billion in the state's roads over three years is not "fiscally conservative" and will not solve the state's transportation problems. (Washington Post)

Top Transportation Nation stories we're following: President Obama released his budget; we began looking at its transportation spending.  And: in honor of Valentine's Day, we found love on the subway.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Madison To Get Bike Share Program, Distracted Walking Under Fire, and NYC To Renovate Dozens of Subway Stations

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Perfect transit moment in DC, not too far from the Transportation Research Bureau conference: Metro, bikes, buses, pedestrians, cars (Kate Hinds)

Lawmakers in New York and Arkansas are considering restrictions on using cell phones and music players such as iPods by people running and walking on the street or sidewalk. (AP via Syracuse.com)

Mazda gets in the electric vehicles game; the "Demio" to be produced in Japan next year. (Business Green)

The NYC MTA is renovating dozens of subway stations in the outer boroughs. (NY1)

Five leading Democrats in the Virginia state Senate have crossed party lines and agreed to co-sponsor a $3.3 billion transportation package advanced by Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, significantly boosting the chances that one of the Republican governor's top legislative priorities for the year will pass the General Assembly. (Washington Post)

Madison's finance committee approved funding for a bike-share program that could begin in May. (Wisconsin State Journal)

The Transport Politic tries to explain the Republican party's reluctance to invest in transit infrastructure. In a nutshell: "The Democratic Party holds most of its power in the nation’s cities, whereas the GOP retains greater strength in the exurbs and rural areas."

Which means: the president will be taking some political risks when he makes a pitch for funding infrastructure in tonight's State of the Union speech. (New York Times)

Stories we're following:  Republican and Democratic officials spar on merits of infrastructure spending, can rail and roads stabilize Afganistan, and Ghanzhou's BRT, with 800,000 riders, wins sustainable transport award.

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Transportation Nation

DC Metro Governance: What Does It Mean? (And Why Should I Care?)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

(Washington, DC -- David Schultz, WAMU) I know, I know -- the makeup of a local transit authority's board of directors is not exactly the sexiest topic, especially not at a time when most people are thinking of turkey, football or some weird combination of the two.

But while this may seem like something only a wonk could love, there's actually a sneaky political power play in the works here that could shift the balance of influence in the D.C. region and fundamentally alter the way Metro operates.

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