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Kaine Talks Traffic

Residents Offer Solutions to Traffic Problems

Shelley Huss spends more than three hours a day on the road. During the week, Huss drives seven miles from her Ashburn home to the Dulles North Transit Center. She then takes the commuter bus from Dulles to the Farragut North Metro station in Washington, D.C. From there, Huss hops on the red line to the Bethesda Metro stop.

"My commute takes one and a half hours in the morning and an hour and 40 minutes in the afternoon. I commute by bus everyday," Huss said. "Could I get there faster? Yes."

LOUDOUN COUNTY RESIDENTS like Huss crowded into Leesburg Airport’s terminal Saturday afternoon to voice their opinions on traffic issues in Northern Virginia to Governor-elect Tim Kaine (D). This was his sixth stop on his statewide tour to discuss transportation problems in Virginia, to bring to the General Assembly in 2006.

"I said in my campaign that this [traffic] is the most urgent issue facing the next governor," Kaine said. "That is me."

Kaine broke down traffic problems into three areas: urgency, accountability and choices.

"It has been 20 years since we took a comprehensive look at what our transportation challenges are," Kaine said. "If we do not do something now … it is just going to get harder. This is not going to go away or get easier."

Kaine reminded residents that there is more than one solution to the statewide traffic problem.

"There is no one thing you can do. The needs are all different," he said. "In Northern Virginia, it is congestion."

While it is important to improve and expand roads, public transportation and rail have a critical role in improving traffic, Kaine said.

SCOTT YORK (I), chairman of Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, laid out local traffic problems for the governor-elect.

"Transportation and growth are the top two concerns of the citizens of Loudoun County," York said.

Loudoun County has had to build school after school to accommodate the number of new families moving into the area. There are still several schools planned to be built over the next six years.

York said the county is "soaked up in debt" from new schools being built.

"We have to have the ability to say no to residential growth," he said.

Residents expressed concerns about where tax dollars for transportation are going. "How do we make sure transportation money goes toward transportation?" one resident asked.

Kaine said if residents are paying taxes for transportation and infrastructure, they should only be used for that.

"I think there is some good movement making sure transportation money stays in trust funds," he said.

SOME RESIDENTS stressed the importance of a rail system in Northern Virginia.

Leesburg resident David Kirsten said a mass-transportation system is what Loudoun County residents have been waiting for.

"It would get cars off the road, which is exactly what we want to do," he said.

Unlike Kirsten, Huss said building and maintaining a rail system would cost too much money.

"It is going to eat up all of our gas tax. What about the maintenance of it?" Huss said. "Rail is not a solution in Loudoun County."

Leesburg resident Jim Haynes asked Kaine what he thought about public-private partnerships to build roads throughout the state.

"Some are great and some you should not pursue," Kaine said. "The state needs to be in control of the planning. If the deal makes sense, we should explore it."

Kaine assured Loudoun residents that he would voice their concerns to the General Assembly and leave traffic decisions up to experts.

"I want to hire the best and the brightest to make key transportation decisions," he said. "These are positions that require incredible expertise."

There is a sense of urgency in Loudoun County because commuters sit in traffic for hours everyday. "We are in a crisis in Northern Virginia. It is time for the talk to stop and action to be taken," York said.