In Virginia, Republican lawmaker blasts GOP’s ‘Solyndra style’ transit plans

In Virginia, Republican lawmaker blasts GOP’s ‘Solyndra style’ transit plans
VA GOP to voters: We have ways of making you pay -- and stop driving. (Image: AP via watchdog.com)

Merging into Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s lane, the GOP-controlled House is pushing for more rail projects and more tolls on Virginia roads.

Susan Stimpson wants it all to stop, and head in the opposite direction.

“They are moving this through so fast, it’s unconscionable,” said the Stafford County Republican, who is challenging House Speaker Bill Howell in a June primary.

“This is a fundamental shift from using tax dollars to fix roads to adding tolls and shifting to mass transit,” the former Stafford supervisor told Watchdog.org. “It represents a change in overarching transportation policy, with really no discussion.”

If approved, the Republican House’s rail and toll agenda isn’t likely to get pushback from McAuliffe. A relentless promoter of mass transit, the Democratic governor has also touted new and proposed toll lanes in Northern Virginia.

“This strengthens the public-private partnership with Transurban,” Stimpson said of the Australian-based company that built and operates the recently completed toll lanes on I-95 north of Fredericksburg.

“This type of Solyndra-style deal is the last thing we need,” she said, likening so-called Virginia’s “P3” arrangements to the federal government’s solar subsidy boondoggle.

According to Stimpson, the state is “leveraging private debt for road improvements and tolling citizens for using them. Instead of using our tax dollars for infrastructure, they’re double taxing.”

House Bill 1887, sponsored by Delegate Chris Jones, R-Suffolk, effectively converts the Governor’s Transportation Opportunity Fund to a slush fund for road projects, with little or no oversight, Stimpson charged.

While allowing for the pooling of toll revenue on one roadway for use on projects elsewhere, the legislation would shift funding responsibility for secondary roads to localities, Stimpson said.

Proponents of the bill disagree. They say local districts will get more money for roadwork under the plan.

See how the funding formula would work in one district.

Despite Stimpson’s critique, the House sent HB 1887 to the Senate on a 96-2 vote Wednesday afternoon. Only Delegates Bob Marshall, R-Manassas, and Mark Berg, R-Winchester, voted no.

Delegate Dave LaRock, R-Hamilton, was one of just three Republicans to vote against the bill in committee. Delegates Jim LeMunyon, R-Chantilly, and Tim Hugo, R-Centreville, were the others.

“Every email we have received supporting the bill has been from transit organizations or localities touting it benefits to (mass) transit,” LaRock’s office said in an email Wednesday morning.

LaRock is sponsoring HB 1470 to require transit projects funded by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to be evaluated on the same performance-based standard as all other transportation projects.

Read more by Kenric Ward at Watchdog.com.

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward

Kenric Ward is a national correspondent and writes for the Texas Bureau of Watchdog.org. Formerly a reporter and editor at two Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers, Kenric has won dozens of state and national news awards for investigative articles. His most recent book is “Saints in Babylon: Mormons and Las Vegas.”


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