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Is Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell Pulling a Scott Walker?

8:20 AM PDT on June 19, 2012

Just yesterday Virginia was receiving accolades for its successful, bipartisan rail expansion efforts. But the praise is giving way to criticism today.

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There are some weird politics going on in the commonwealth, which appear to be part of a grudge match between Republican Governor Bob McDonnell and public officials in transit-friendly northern Virginia.

David Alpert at Greater Greater Washington reports that McDonnell has suddenly decided to overhaul the way transportation funding is distributed across the state. Rather than channeling some funds through the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, McDonnell has proposed that local municipalities become direct recipients. That could be a big headache for communities in Northern Virginia, and it appears that was the point, reports Alpert:

This is very disruptive, Northern Virginia leaders say, not least because they already approved their budgets for next year and none of this is part of their budgets. They might need to pay for extra staff to handle the paperwork involved, approve agreements to hand the money back to NVTC, and more, all at the last minute.

There is a lot of paperwork, auditing, and other administrative hassle involved in receiving state and federal money and giving money to WMATA and other transit agencies. Northern Virginia jurisdictions say that having NVTC handle all of this saves them a lot of time and money, especially for the very small cities like Falls Church and City of Fairfax.

Why is [the state Department of Rail and Public Transportation] doing this? DRPT officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but according to the Fairfax County Board meeting's staff memo (page 253), "Director Drake noted that this was being done to ensure that each local government and agency understands how much money it is receiving from DRPT."

This certainly makes the move sound like retaliation for the way Northern Virginia pushed back against the McDonnell administration's efforts to take more power over WMATA for itself and away from the local cities and counties.

After the way McDonnell played chicken with the Silver Line Metro extension, Alpert wonders if he hasn't taken a page from transit antagonists Chris Christie and Scott Walker.

Elsewhere on the Network today: The Minus Car Project questions the wisdom of laws that forbid cyclists from riding two abreast. This Big City outlines the colorful way in which citizens of Bogota are taking back their streets. And Urban Indy offers its support for recently introduced complete streets legislation in Indianapolis.

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