Your View: Why we need an add-on tax


Transportation and mobility are major challenges in every jurisdiction within the Washington region, and Alexandria is not unique. It is vital that we improve our transportation systems, not only for accommodating those who travel through our city each day, but also for our residents who seek to travel to other parts of Alexandria and the region. Moreover, as an urban area, we must promote the movement of people, not vehicles, while focusing on regional connectivity and primary transit corridors of travel.  Alexandria cannot road-build its way to better transportation.
Jurisdictions throughout our region are making substantial investments in their transportation infrastructure and Alexandria must act now in order to keep pace and remain competitive. Arlington is working on the Columbia Pike streetcar project and Crystal City-Potomac Yard transit; Fairfax County has rail to Dulles and express bus service along its Route 1 corridor; the District has an extensive streetcar project underway; and Maryland has the Inter-County Connector and the Purple Line either under construction or in development.
These jurisdictions are not just making these investments to improve mobility; they all envision a substantial return of investment over time. Alexandria must not lose ground. Our investment today will help ensure our competitiveness, leading to improved property values for the very properties that would pay the add-on tax.  Further, the city must consider some form of tax relief to the businesses that will shoulder increased real estate taxes.
With declining state revenues for both maintenance and new construction, Alexandria must now consider a commercial add-on tax to bring in desired revenues for new transportation projects. Enacted by Fairfax and Arlington, the commercial add-on tax has brought in precious resources to finance these new projects, and they have done so in order to leverage funds either through bonding or to become eligible for federal funds, using the new revenues as the required local match. Consequently, they are getting more bang for the buck and financing significant transportation projects.
Alexandria will be considering a similar add-on tax on commercial real estate.  Authorized by the state legislature, this option is really the only tool left in our toolbox solving transportation matters by local initiative and bringing in needed revenues to fund new projects. But to fully consider this revenue option, the city must be clear on the projects that will receive attention. And these projects must be bold and in line with our strategic priorities.
Funds must be directed at transit projects that are strategic in terms of desired growth, regional connectivity and pedestrian safety. I believe these funds must go toward high capacity transit in the Mark Center area, which sorely needs solutions given the adverse impacts associated with BRAC-133 (Base Realignment and Closure). Funds need to be directed at transit options at Potomac Yard, connecting with Arlington and leading to the Braddock Road Metro station, a project that has been under planning/design for more than 10 years. Imagine an expansion of the Old Town trolley service to Del Ray, connecting two vital small business areas of Alexandria and promoting intra-city travel.  
These are just some examples of projects that could be funded with needed resources, and they are all projects that fit our criteria of improved mobility, regional connections and improved pedestrian safety.   
Alexandria is at a crossroads. We must act now in order to bring the needed resources to the table that will benefit the city for decades to come. The Alexandria City Council is elected to make these kinds of decisions with a vision toward the future. I believe these transportation investments have to be made now. These are investments we cannot afford not to make if we want to remain competitive and are serious about improved transportation in our urban environment. The transportation improvements we make today will truly serve the city for decades to come.