Transportation Reform in Virginia

Promoting Major Changes to VDOT: Record traffic congestion & ever-longer commutes are a result of decades of poor planning.


Photo © Doug Riddel

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Charlottesville Amtrak passengers rally against Trump budget cuts to rail More »

A crowd gathered outside the Charlottesville Amtrak station Friday to oppose President Trump’s proposal to cut all federal funding for Amtrak’s national network of trains. The move would leave more than 220 communities and more than 40 million people across the country with no rail service. In Charlottesville, more than 50 thousand passengers would feel the loss.

Cutting Amtrak will also result in an increase in driving, leading to greater carbon emissions. “Transportation is the number one source of carbon pollution in Virginia,” Senior Attorney Trip Pollard said, addressing the crowd. “Rail is one of the cleanest, most efficient, and climate-friendly forms of transportation. Per passenger mile, it uses about a third less energy than driving and produces about a third less CO2 emissions.”

If Trump’s budget is approved, 23 states would lose all passenger rail service. Charlottesville would lose Amtrak’s Crescent and Cardinal lines, which make up two-thirds of its trains.

David Toscano, Charlottesville’s representative in the Virginia House of Delegates, told the crowd, “We are going to have to turn up the heat.” Toscano promised to draft a letter opposing the loss of service in the state and encouraged all delegates in Virginia to sign on.

Another rally is planned at Richmond’s Main Street Station on Wednesday, June 28th.

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Transportation and land use patterns in Virginia exact a tremendous toll on our environment, health, and economy. While growth provides numerous benefits, the heavy costs of decades of poor planning and policies focused on pouring asphalt are catching up with us, with more highways and sprawling development causing air and water pollution, traffic congestion, ever-longer commutes, and the loss of farmland, open space, and historic resources. Transportation is also Virginia’s leading source of carbon pollution, a primary factor in climate change.

To the Sun and Back

People in Virginia drive over 200 million miles each day – farther than the distance to the sun and back. As new and expanded highways encourage development on the fringes of existing communities and the lion’s share of transportation funding continues to go to roads, most of us have no practical alternative to driving.

However, growing demand for new approaches has helped fuel record levels of rail and transit ridership and begun to slow the increase in the number of miles we drive.   

A Plan for Action

SELC is working to fundamentally alter transportation policies and practices in the Commonwealth. We have helped achieve some significant reforms in recent years, such as establishing dedicated funding for passenger rail and developing a more open and objective way to determine which transportation proposals get funded, but much more needs to be done.

Our goals include the following:

  • Prevent wasteful and destructive highway projects such as the proposed Northern Virginia Outer Beltway Projects, the Coalfields Expressway, extensive I-81 widening, and a new U.S. 460 in the Tidewater region—costly projects that would destroy natural and historic resources, spur sprawl, and increase air and water pollution while doing little to solve traffic congestion problems. Instead, we are promoting more effective, less damaging options such as the Charlottesville U.S. Route 29 Solutions package of improvements;
  • Reorient transportation spending to increase funding for cleaner transportation alternatives such as transit, rail and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and advance key projects;
  • Reform Virginia's flawed Public Private Transportation Act, and ensure major public-private proposals such as the Interstate 66 toll lane projects in Northern Virginia include a major transit component and protect the public interest;
  • Increase funding to maintain existing roads and bridges as part of a "fix it first" strategy, improve the efficiency of existing roads, and build effective local street networks that accommodate all modes of travel;
  • Provide incentives for more efficient, cleaner vehicles and cleaner fuels;
  • Improve the link between transportation and land use planning, and provide greater incentives for smarter growth.

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