U.S. Congressman James P. Moran (D-8) left for Turkey on Feb. 16, but reviewed Congressional initiatives that will affect Alexandria and the rest of his Eighth District before he left.
Moran was scheduled to update City Council on legislative issues on Feb. 12, but had to cancel that meeting because of House votes on campaign finance reform. The meeting has been rescheduled for Feb. 26.
“It is good to finally have some seniority on the Appropriations Committee and be able to do some good things for the district,” Moran said. “I believe that our regional economy will continue to be the strongest of anywhere in the country. We will benefit from additional defense and homeland security spending because of the number of federal facilities here. While, nationally, unemployment is projected to stay at around four percent, Northern Virginia’s unemployment rate should drop to about half of that. However, no one should expect much in the way of nondefense federal money. All of those appropriations are going to be cut.”
In the area of transportation, there will be small amounts of money, mostly for studying issues. As for the Woodrow Wilson replacement bridge, however, “there will be no additional federal money for that project,” Moran said. “There is no choice but to recompete the superstructure contract because Maryland only got one bid and it was outrageous. If additional resources are needed, they will not come from the federal government because my colleagues are already squawking about the amount of money that is going into one project.”
The bid for the superstructure contract was $372 million above what is budgeted and estimated by Maryland Department of Transportation engineers. Rebidding that contract puts the project at least six months behind schedule.
“There will also not be any additional federal money for Virginia’s other transportation projects,” Moran said. “Governor Gilmore already borrowed against the federal funds for the next several years to pay for projects that we now learn the state can’t pay for anyway.”
Congress will provide $750,000 for Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) research and development program funds to be used to identify innovative solutions to moving traffic along Alexandria’s two major arterials, Duke Street and through the interchange of King Street, Braddock Road and Quaker Lane and King Street and Braddock Road, Quaker Lane interchange. “The city will use the funds to conduct an engineering study to improve traffic designs,” Moran said.
Duke Street improvements could include message boards and an integrated signal light timing system. The King Street interchange plan will consider innovative designs including a modern roundabout or traffic circle to move the traffic flow, use of message boards and integrated signal light coordination.
Moran has also obtained $250,000 in Federal Transit Administration National Planning and Research funds for Arlington and Alexandria to begin a transportation study along the Jefferson Davis-Rt. 1 corridor. “We want to look at connecting the Braddock Road and Crystal City Metro stops by using light rail,” Moran said. “This will give Arlington and Alexandria some funds to begin the planning that is necessary for transit-oriented development in Potomac Yard.”
The Arlandria Neighborhood Health Services will have a new and bigger home for the clinic, thanks to $600,000 in Health and Human Services grant funds. “They have really outgrown their space at Presidential Greens and we were very pleased to be able to help them,” Moran said. “This is a bilingual, professional staff that serves women and children, mostly of Hispanic origin, from all over the area.”
The Arlington Alexandria Work Force Investment Board will receive $300,000 in Department of Labor funds for a work force initiative for persons with disabilities. “This is a new project that will directly involve employers,” Moran said. “We hope that it will mean expanded job opportunities for many persons with a variety of disabilities.”
Another $900,000 in Health and Human Services funding for Children’s Hospice International, will enable the organization to continue a demonstration project that is designed to achieve a model of comprehensive community-based hospice care for children with life-threatening conditions.
“Unfortunately, education funding is going to be cut at the federal level,” Moran said. “I really believe that the only way for the state to pay for the needed improvements to our facilities and to pay teachers the salaries they deserve is to raise sales taxes. Four and a half percent is a ridiculously low sales tax rate and I believe that we could increase it by at least one cent if not more.”
Moran believes that the U. S. will eventually have to change its educational system to be year-round. “The only way it made sense for us to have our kids in school for essentially half of the year was when they had to be released to help with crops,” Moran said. “We certainly do not need to do that now and if our young people are going to compete with the rest of the world, we need to make some changes.”
While he is supportive of educational standards, he hopes that the Commonwealth will consider other measures as well. “Children should not be judged by just one test,” he said. “Some children simply do not test well. We should consider their total academic performance, their socialization and their other activities as well.”
Alexandria will receive $8 million for increased security. “This is about three times what the city requested,” Moran said. “We will use these funds to purchase a new, state-of-the-art fire engine and to make sure that our police and sheriff’s department have the best equipment in the country.”
This money will not, however, be used to defray the cost of housing terrorist suspects or their trials. “I have a commitment from the U.S. Marshal service that they will pay for the entire cost of housing federal prisoners and for the trials,” Moran said. “Of course we can’t pay people for the time that they may spend in traffic because of street closures that are necessary during the transporting of prisoners but we think that inconvenience can be minimized by the proximity of our jail to the federal courthouse. That is certainly one of the reasons that Alexandria was selected as a place to hold these trials: that, and the “rocket docket” in the Eastern District court.”
Moran also said $15 million will be dedicated to the purchase and installation of chemical and biological detection systems in Metro stations. “We hope to install such devices in all of our Metro stations eventually, but we will begin with two now,” Moran said.
Also, George Mason University has been chosen as the site for a center for research and training in cyber security. “This is a growing field and we need to ensure that our training is absolutely cutting edge,” Moran said.
WINDMILL HILL PARK
One of the items on the list of requests from City Council is federal funds to pay for Windmill Hill Park to be redesigned. “Federal money should only be used if the park is accessible to citizens from throughout the city and even the region,” Moran said. “I will not provide one dime for a park that is being designed for the benefit of a group of neighbors who live adjacent to it.”
Moran is concerned about borrowing money from Social Security. “The $1.6 trillion dollars of the social security surplus that we will spend is, ironically the exact amount of President Bush’s tax cut,” Moran said. “I think that it is a travesty that my generation will give the least and get the most while our children will have to pay the price for our benefits later. We have gone from projected surpluses for the next ten years to projected deficits.”