Mount Vernon Column: Investing in Transportation

Mount Vernon Column: Investing in Transportation


Governor McAuliffe just unveiled the new “Atlantic Gateway” transportation plan, the most comprehensive transit revitalization plan in Virginia history. The plan will total $1.4 billion, with $165 million in federal FASTLANE grant funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation, over $500 million in private funding from CSX and Transurban, and the rest funded through the state.

There was $800 million available nationwide through President Obama’s FASTLANE grant, and Virginia received about one-fifth of that money.

I’m proud to have played a small role in this historic transportation reinvestment, as it was my bill that enabled the Department of Rail and Public Transit to acquire the right-of-way necessary to construct the new rail, including a high-speed rail line from Richmond to Raleigh, N.C.

Our portion of the 95 corridor is the most congested corridor in the Southeast. Worse than even Atlanta and Miami. We are tired of waiting in traffic. It shouldn’t take an hour or two to drive across town to watch our kids play a ballgame in the afternoon. To increase economic activity and grow our new Virginia economy, it has to be a pleasurable experience for everyone trying to get around the Commonwealth, whether it be trying to get to the store, commuting to work, or trying to ship goods from Hampton Roads to points north.

Right now, the Port at Hampton Roads is the only east coast port that can handle the new gigantic ships coming through the newly-expanded Panama Canal. The first ship arrived at Norfolk on Monday, July 11, and these transportation improvements will lead to an explosion of economic activity across the whole Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Atlantic Gateway Project includes 14 miles of additional rail track along the 95 corridor, including a new Long Bridge over the Potomac River, relieving this and notorious chokes point for VRE commuters, Amtrak travelers and CSX freight rail. Other rail bypasses will include a fourth track between Potomac and Alexandria, and a third track between Franconia and Occoquan, so passenger trains won’t get stuck behind freight rail anymore.

Another part of the Atlantic Gateway project that stands to benefit our area, is that it will make equitable investments and improvements in bus transit access through adding at least 10 new bus routes.

The funds will also extend the 95 express lanes 7 miles north to the D.C. line, with access points to the Pentagon, and 10 miles south to Fredericksburg, including a new southbound bridge across the Rappahannock. Construction on the extensions will begin in 2017.

Finally, as we improve our transportation network, the Commonwealth of Virginia is making the necessary improvements to 95 that will allow for autonomous vehicle deployment, coming in the near future.

I look forward to when the project is completed, making it easier for us to travel in Northern Virginia, and of course for the increased economic development and activity that comes with better transportation networks.