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Transportation Priorities Trump Funding, McDonnell Critics Say

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According to smart growth advocates, emphasis on highway spending underpins Virginia transportation challenges.
VaDOT: http://www.flickr.com/photos/vadot/6923782709/
According to smart growth advocates, emphasis on highway spending underpins Virginia transportation challenges.

As Virginians wait to see if the governor and General Assembly can reach a compromise to salvage a transportation funding plan, one advocacy group says there is more to this drama than simply raising more tax revenue.

One of the McDonnell administration's most vocal critics says the state's future transportation priorities are just as important as the ongoing battle in Richmond over the gas and sales taxes. Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which favors developing public transit alternatives to highway construction, says the governor and state Department of Transportation have the wrong priorities.

"The fundamental problem has been this administration's waste of much of the $3 billion in additional funds the General Assembly provided in 2011," Schwartz says.

He points to four highway projects he says amount to about $5 billion dollars in waste: Route 460 in southern Virginia, the Coalfields Expressway in western Virginia, the Charlottesville Bypass, and an unnamed north-south highway corridor between I-95 in Prince William County to Route 7 in Loudoun County.

"This administration has been squandering money on rural highway projects that are flatly unnecessary and could actually make our problems worse," Schwartz says.

Schwartz says the legislature should strengthen its oversight of VDOT's spending and approve a transportation funding plan that dedicates at least 25 percent of revenues toward commuter rail.

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