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Cuccinelli puts Metro extension to Dulles on notice
Says he’s not open to covering project’s cost overruns
Question of the Day
Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II says he's not inclined to put any additional state money into Metro's 23-mile extension to Washington Dulles International Airport absent proof the dollars would be spent wisely.
"I expect this thing to stay on and under budget now, and I would not be particularly open to pouring more money in unless they're willing to come back with a study — that would be a miracle — that demonstrated cost-effectiveness of those dollars," he said.
Transportation has been a defining issue in the Virginia governor's race between Mr. Cuccinelli, a Republican, and Terry McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.
Mr. McAuliffe consistently touts his support for both the Metro extension, known as the Silver Line, and a $6 billion compromise transportation package the state legislature passed this year.
Mr. Cuccinelli opposed the final product because of the tax increases it contained and issued an eleventh-hour legal opinion that nearly derailed its passage. But he has said he would not work to undo any of it if elected.
Mr. McAuliffe's campaign declined to answer whether he supports additional state money for Dulles rail. About $300 million for the project is baked into the transportation bill he reportedly worked the phones to help pass during this year's legislative session.
Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, signed off on an additional $150 million last year for the second leg of the $6 billion project, which will extend from East Falls Church through Dulles and into Loudoun County.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is overseeing the project, being financed by revenues collected on the Dulles Toll Road, as well as contributions from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Money from the state and the federal government is also being used to defray the total cost.
"One of the things I liked about the Silver Line is that Fairfax and Loudoun had a say. Really, they each had a veto, at least on the financing side," Mr. Cuccinelli said. "I think that's a real plus.
Mr. Cuccinelli said one of his goals is to "decentralize" transportation projects administered in Richmond.
"We're one of the most centralized states in the whole country, probably one of the four most, but if you've got a local project like that, and it is a local project like that, my position is going to be, 'They're responsible for that.'"
The candidate on Monday revealed more details of a broader transportation agenda that followed on that theme, involving a nudge toward devolution, or allowing localities to assume more responsibility — and costs — of building and maintaining roads.
Mr. Cuccinelli's transportation plan calls for a "phased-in" approach to devolution. Local governments will be given more control over transportation projects, but "they will have to abide by VDOT's statewide standards for safety and procurement."
Starting with the state's largest counties, such as Fairfax, Prince William, Loudoun and Chesterfield, the state will administer block grants equal to what is currently spent on secondary roads, while using a new matrix to identify projects that will provide the greatest congestion relief.
Cities in Virginia, along with Arlington and Henrico counties, build and maintain their own secondary road systems. A population floor of 100,000 would be established for small counties that have neither the personnel nor the resources to maintain secondary roads at this time, according to the plan.
Other aspects include auditing the state's transportation departments, making carpooling more accessible and reforming the size and weight permitting system for oversized trucks.
"When we spend transportation dollars, I intend to move as far along the road of cost-benefit analysis — how much congestion relief do you get per dollar spent here versus your alternative here? Which one beats it?" he said. "I'm perfectly comfortable spending on rails, roads, hot air balloons — whatever actually moves people most efficiently, cost effectively. Least money for the most transportation, whatever mode that is. But if localities take on what amount to those sorts of economic development programs, they need to take them on."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
David Sherfinski covers politics for The Washington Times. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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