Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Opinion: Transportation: Secondary thoughts, Richmond Times-Dispatch, December 6, 2011

The opinion piece in the Richmond Times-Dispatch provides an important historical perspective as well as a look at both sides of the issue of "devolution" of road maintenance funding to counties.  It adds a valuable complement to the letter by the area's three Board of Supervisors chairmen that devolution is a bad idea.   Here is the crux of the discussion:
Large suburbanized counties (like Fairfax) have the bulk of such roads and would bear the brunt of devolution, a proposal they would consider an unfunded mandate. Chesterfield, for instance, would need to come up with more than $10 million a year.
To state officials, however, the current arrangement looks like an unfunded mandate that leaves Richmond on the hook for maintaining roads it had no say in creating. The system dates back to the Great Depression, when the General Assembly adopted the Byrd Road Act to take fiscal pressure off struggling rural counties — counties that are, in much of the state, now all grown up.
Interestingly, in mid-2010, at an offsite "committee of the whole," the Fairfax County Supervisors began an initiative to look at the option of changing its state charter status from county to city, precisely so it could fund local road maintenance because the state was not providing adequate funding. 

Right now, while the state is not funding road maintenance adequately, it denies the counties the right to do so.  Devolution would give the counties the right (actually, the obligation) to maintain the roads they build.  So, if the state is not funding road maintenance for budget reasons, why is Fairfax County (& others) objecting to being given the right to fund maintenance for the roads they built?  Obviously, no local politician wants to take on a responsibility that will mean raising taxes.

Click here to read the rest of the opinion piece.  

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