About 90 members of the not-for-profit, non-partisan Alexandria-based Agenda: Alexandria turned out November 24 on a drizzly evening to listen to an expert panel discuss transportation issues in the City of Alexandria.
Virginia Transportation Secretary and Alexandria native Pierce R. Homer, Steven Schwartz, executive Director for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and Rich Baier, Alexandria City Director, Transportation and Environmental Services, spoke and took questions from the audience.
Secretary Homer said that Alexandria was fortunate to have completed the Wilson Bridge Project, noting that if it had not been finished there would have come a time when large trucks would have been banned. Thanks John Warner, he said. Homer still sees challenges ahead, the first being the existing transportation infrastructure and the money needed to maintain the status quo. Financial resources will continue to be stretched thin, with revenues coming from gasoline and automobile sales taxes. As prices of new and used cars drop, so will the revenue generated from the sales tax. If people drive less and use less gas, that revenue also drops. The basic revenue source is shrinking, he said.
Baier talked specifically about the situation in Alexandria and the city goal of an effective and efficient multi-model transportation system. Allocation of resources, land use and maintenance will be a challenge with the budget crises.
Schwartz, with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said, There is a lot that we can do, and he used the Braddock Metro Plan as an example. He said that city planners need to figure out how to effectively use the Metro System in both directions, which means decisions to be made on where businesses locate and wise land use. Dont build in a vacuum, he said. He added that the citys 200 year-old grid streets still work and that the city was to be commended for green planning and the accommodation of bicyclists.
One of the more interesting questions at the end of the presentation, which may lead to another discussion on another day, was a concern over climate change and what it would do to the Alexandria waterfront. Baier said that there are flood studies underway now and that the incidence of flooding will increase. The solutions are not cheap, easy or pretty.
At the end of the evening it was apparent that with less money available and much to be done, infrastructure maintenance is a high priority. The transportation tank is not empty but the indicator is reading a little on the low side. According to Baier, Thinking differently . how to make this into a positive in a time of fiscal crisis, is the real challenge. Schwartz suggested that, We put everything on the table and think very carefully what we buy with our money. Homer reminded the group that, Regional planning is the right way to go.