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Votes

Council Suggests Increasing Gas Tax to Help Fund Needs

Because of the defeat of the half-cent state tax referendum at the polls last week, Mayor Kerry J. Donley has asked for a report on a proposal to increase Northern Virginia’s gas tax from 2 percent to 4 percent.

"I would like to consider including this request in our legislative packet to the General Assembly,” Donley said at the Nov. 12 City Council meeting. “The sales tax referendum that would have funded some of our transportation needs was pretty resoundingly defeated by the voters of this region, and it is time to move on. But there is no Plan B, and we still have mass transit needs that require funding.

"The gas tax is a user tax that was set at 2 percent and was originally scheduled to be increased to 4 percent. The General Assembly decided not to increase it about 10 years ago. This tax goes almost 100 percent to fund mass transit, specifically our Metro contribution. Our gas tax is lower than the gas tax in our neighboring jurisdictions – Maryland and the District – and although it is not a large amount of money, it would pay for the increases in our Metro contribution.”

Councilman William D. Euille, a member of the Metro Board of Directors, said, “I will certainly be supporting this proposal and hope that the Council will choose to include it in this year’s legislative package. We were just discussing exactly how jurisdictions are going to fund the increases that are needed to keep up with Metro’s maintenance needs.”

Donley also plans to speak to the mayors and chairs of other Northern Virginia localities about including this same proposal in their legislative packages. “We in the region must have a way to take care of our own needs,” he said.

Staff will prepare a report that will be available before the Nov. 16 public hearing on the legislative package.

ALL WORK ON THE Eisenhower-Duke Connector has been folded into planning for the Eisenhower Valley and into the development of a comprehensive transportation policy and program.

“I want to formalize the action we took at the work session on this matter and perhaps go a step further,” Donley said.

Councilman David Speck made the motion. “Council is removing all consideration of a four-lane connector between Eisenhower and Duke Street and the no-build-with-Improvement package,” Speck said. “The staff will study potential two-lane roads in conjunction with planning for Eisenhower West and the development of our transportation and policy program and as laid out in Councilman Euille’s white paper, entitled Comprehensive (and integrated) Transportation Solutions Action Plan.”

Euille outlined items that should be considered in undertaking such a planning process: protection of residential neighborhoods; pedestrian safety; reduction of traffic volume and congestion; encouragement of mass transit use; and arterial streets and key congestion points like Braddock Road, King Street, Duke Street and Quaker Lane and public safety access to Eisenhower Valley.

Councilwoman Redella S. “Del” Pepper offered a substitute motion. “My motion is different in that it would table any discussion of any two-lane road until after we have gone through a comprehensive transportation and land-use planning process for not only Eisenhower Valley but every part of the city that this is going to affect,” she said. “I don’t believe that Mr. Speck’s motion tables this discussion until this happens.”

DONLEY SAID that the motions were similar. “I believe that these motions are saying the same things,” he said. “As a matter of fact, Mr. Speck’s motion goes further because it takes any discussion of four-lane connectors off the table.”

City Manager Philip Sunderland asked for a clarification. “Right now, we are just completing the planning process for Eisenhower East,” he said. “By late 2003, we hope to begin a similar process for Eisenhower West that will be conducted in the same manner as we have planned Eisenhower East. Our comprehensive transportation policy and program is going to take 18 months to two years. Where would this analysis of two-lane roads fit into this process?”

Councilwoman Claire Eberwein suggested that it would come somewhere between Eisenhower West and the transportation policy and program. “I think that we all understand that you can’t plan Eisenhower West without some discussion of a two-lane roadway,” she said.

Donley agreed. “There can be no discussion of Eisenhower West without discussing connectivity, public safety access and reducing congestion.”

Councilwoman Joyce Woodson emphasized the need to look at the entire city. “As we have seen, these roads have impacts on other neighborhoods than Eisenhower and Duke Street, so we must look at the impact on all other affected parts of the city,” she said.

Speck’s motion ultimately passed unanimously after Pepper’s failed on a 5-2 vote. The two-lane roadways will be analyzed at some time during the planning process for Eisenhower West and the development of the transportation policy and program.

THE ALEXANDRIA Redevelopment and Housing Authority’s (ARHA) Board will be reduced from nine members to seven members.

“There are a couple of ways that we can go about this,” Donley said. “We can decide not to fill the two current vacancies; we can reduce the size of the board as current members elect not to reapply for their positions, or we can ask the entire board to resign and reconstitute it in some manner,” he said.

Woodson expressed some concern about having everyone reapply. “Some might see this as a vote of no confidence from this Council, even though it is not,” she said. “With everything that the ARHA Board has to do at this time, this perception would not be good. It seems to me that the simplest solution is not to fill the two current vacancies.”

Speck did not agree with this solution. “One of those people has been involved in the redevelopment of the Samuel Madden Homes and is a valuable asset,” he said. “Why don’t we simply agree that we are going to reduce the size of the board and reconstitute it by June 30. We can decide how that will be done at some later time.”

That motion passed unanimously.

WOODSON GAVE an update on progress on the proposed teen center.

“We had a meeting with some T.C. students at T.C. about a week ago,” she said. “It was a good meeting. We are working with a volunteer architect, Gabor Nickles. He is going to get a plan back to the students in the next week or so. They will be able to use cutouts to design a facility and show what they want to have in it and where they would like these things to go. For instance, they might have a dance floor or a snack bar or a lounge area. They are going to divide up into groups and come up with ideas. Then they will give them back to the architect, and he will design something. This is a good way for them to let us know what they want in a teen center, what they want it to look like and where they want it to be. I think we have made some good progress, and I will report back to you as we move ahead.”