In 2009, the Arlington County Board filed a lawsuit to stop the Kaine Administration’s efforts to bring 395 HOT lanes through the county. This surprised state officials as for some time, County leaders had offered support for the idea.
The suit cost county taxpayers around $2 million in legal fees. It also embarrassingly named state employees, sued as individuals not in their official capacities, as parties to the case.
County leaders claimed victory when the lawsuit ultimately resulted in Virginia dropping the plan to create the lanes in the original build out of the tolled lanes in 2011.
Fast forward nearly six years to this week when it was announced that those lanes would now open in the fall of 2019. The new plan creates no interchanges that would allow Arlingtonians to have better access to the lanes. This was a concession to the biggest complaints about the plan which came from individuals in the Shirlington area who worried that a good deal of extra traffic would exit there under the initial proposal.
Arlingtonians should be concerned about traffic coming onto surface streets as the County continues to take travel lanes away and narrow critical corridors which unnecessarily causes increased traffic congestion.
Speaking of moving people through Arlington, this past week Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz proposed a budget that would result in a tax increase of approximately 5 percent for single family homeowners 2017.
Schwartz said 1 percent of the increase would be dedicated to increasing Arlington’s share of ongoing funding for Metro. Under the proposal, Arlington taxpayers would add a $6 million net contribution to WMATA’s ongoing operations.
In addition to the ongoing contributions to Metro, the County intends to issue $22 million in new bonds for the failing system. The debt service on these bonds would cost taxpayers $1.5 million in the next fiscal year.
The bonding authority is left over from 2014, so it would not be a question for voters this year. It should voters ask more questions about just how badly the County needs bonds the Board asks you to vote on in the future.
Metro may need extra funding to get back on its feet, and there is no question Arlingtonians are willing to do their share. Until the agency makes transformational reforms, including getting out from under the thumb of the Amalgamated Transit Union, however, Arlington should be skeptical of agreeing to new financial contributions.