In a new National Review column, former U.S. Transportation Secretary Mary Peters reflects on the role that transportation policy played in Virginia Governor-Elect Bob McDonnell’s election victory last week:
Much has been written about the “pragmatic” platform of Virginia governor-elect Bob McDonnell. The common wisdom is true as far as it goes Ã¢â?¬â? McDonnell ran on “kitchen table” issues that were of special concern to suburban voters Ã¢â?¬â? but the media has paid too little attention to one of the election’s most important topics: transportation. […]
McDonnell did this, in part, by explaining his policies to voters in one of the most comprehensive transportation documents ever compiled for a statewide race. Whereas most transportation discussions concentrate on the need for new revenues and the completion of specific projects, McDonnell’s plan laid out a fundamental policy shift. McDonnell presented “four primary pillars”: 1) making investments based on projects’ value to taxpayers, not political influence; 2) reducing the time it takes to deliver projects without sacrificing environmental protection; 3) advancing a new strategy to operate and maintain existing infrastructure (and reduce congestion) that relies more extensively on technology and private-sector partnerships; and 4) transitioning toward a funding model that reduces congestion and establishes a stable revenue stream.
The dirty little secret behind transportation funding is that the best projects are not always those that get funded. Often, political influence, the need for geographical balance in road building, and the desire to bring economic development to disadvantaged areas trump more meritorious criteria such as congestion reduction and highway safety. McDonnell’s plan advanced the notion that transportation funds should be allocated to projects on a cost-benefit basis, using consistent metrics and focusing on the most acute challenges.
Read the whole thing here.