Don’t squander money on added road capacity

It’s not about the money, and it’s not that the state is ignoring I–95, despite The Free Lance–Star editorials otherwise.

Transportation department officials have come from Richmond at least twice to tell us the same thing: “We are aware of the size of the problem in the Fredericksburg area, but funds are not disbursed based on the size of the problem. Funds are awarded based on the effectiveness of the solution.”

But effective solutions are going to be hard to come by, thanks to decades of our following two bad policies:

1. Like other communities, we have incentivized suburban sprawl by spending billions of dollars to add capacity to the region’s road system.

2. Unlike other communities, we have incentivized long-distance commuting by adding capacity on I–95.

It’s easier for close-in communities to show more bang for the buck in their Smart Scale proposals. Since we screwed it up, we shouldn’t expect a bailout from Smart Scale or any funds that would enable us to do more of the same. Unfortunately, this is exactly what The Free Lance–Star editorials and the localities are pushing.

It would be more helpful if editors and local leaders pushed for policies that would allow us to break out of this detrimental pattern, such as allowing congestion pricing in lieu of adding capacity; freeing transportation funds for transit operating expenses; and instituting impact fees requiring developments to pay their own way, especially for their fair share of public transit.

Lack of money is not the problem. The problem is squandering it on “adding capacity” for 60 years, and this time expecting it to work.

Rupert Farley


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