U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) visited Spotsylvania County’s Virginia Railway Express (VRE) station and VRE Crossroads Rail Yard on December 14, 2016.
“This was my baby,” Spotsylvania’s Lee Hill District Supervisor Gary Skinner told Kaine. “These VRE facilities give Spotsylvania County a future; they opened up the possibilities of economic development for us.”
Kaine said one of his top 2017 priorities is to work with Senate colleagues – Democrats and Republicans – on transportation and infrastructure projects that will help create jobs and reduce traffic congestion in Virginia. He’s touring projects and talking with local officials so he can be prepared with real examples.
“I am very committed to the tremendous infrastructure needs in the Commonwealth,” Kaine said. The region doesn’t work without 1.2 million people being able to get on Metro everyday. There’d be too much congestions if 20,000 people couldn’t take rides everyday on VRE.”
Jennifer Mitchell, director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), briefed Kaine on the $1.4 billion Atlantic Gateway Project, which will improve regional roads and rail. She said DRPT has been working closely with the Federal Railroad Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation, and she had a request for Kaine.
“We want to make sure this continues to move forward, as this administration changes,” she told Kaine. “We may need to continually ask for your office’s assistance to make sure that we remain vigilant, that we can get our grant agreements in place and keep this moving.”
Kaine said he thinks infrastructure spending is an area in which Democrats and Republicans working with the new administration could find agreement. “When you have labor, the Chamber of Commerce, mayors, and governors of whatever party saying we ought to be doing infrastructure spending, it’s one of the areas where I think there’s the most possibility – not guarantee – but the most possibility for bipartisan agreement,” he said.
“I see an opportunity with the new administration on infrastructure because Donald Trump, like Hillary, talked so much about it during his campaign,” Kaine said.
But will there be funding available for all projects, including DC2RVA Rail?
“There is reason to be skeptical,” Kaine said. “We have to make the budgets make sense. But there ought to be an expectation that as a nation we invest a certain portion of GDP in infrastructure.”
“As part of budget reform, I’d like to have an expectation about the level of infrastructure investment that we will do on a reliable basis,” he said. “That’s not been the way federal budgeting has been done, but there isn’t any reason why we can’t start being more intentional about it.”
“If you’re not investing in infrastructure, then you start to run on fumes.”
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