Moran to Lead Dems on Transportation

Moran to Lead Dems on Transportation

House Democrats focus on constitutional amendments and traffic concerns.

A native of Natick, Mass., Brian Moran is a 1982 graduate of Framingham State College and a 1988 graduate of the Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law. In the early 1990s, he was an assistant commonwealth’s attorney in Arlington. He was first elected to the House in 1996, becoming chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2001.

"This session is going to focus on transportation issues," Del. Moran said, adding that finding money for improvements will be a challenge. "Where does the extra revenue come from?"

Moran said that local improvements could include widening Interstate 66 inside the Capital Beltway, especially the westbound route. He said that rail service to Dulles International Airport will also be a topic of discussion, especially the recent proposal of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority to take over the project.

"On one hand, their proposal would get the job done with efficiency," Moran said. "On the other hand, the commonwealth would lose control over the project."

In December, Airport Authority President James Bennett presented a plan to oversee the construction of a rail line through the Dulles Corridor to Fairfax and Loudoun counties. Under the proposal, the authority would invest all the revenues generated from the toll road into transportation projects in the Dulles corridor.

"We believe that the toll road is a valuable asset that can provide major transportation benefits for the residents and the businesses in the corridor," Bennett said in a written statement announcing the plan last month. "It is important that all the revenues of the toll road continue to remain in the corridor and to be used for transportation improvements in the public interest, particularly expedited rail to Dulles."

TWO CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS that Moran is supporting would protect the Transportation Trust Fund and create a new redistricting commission. According to the Virginia Constitution, amendments must receive a majority of House and Senate votes in two consecutive sessions. It’s then submitted to voters for approval "not sooner than ninety days after final passage by the General Assembly." Moran said that he hopes to send the issues to voters in the autumn of 2007.

During the gubernatorial campaign, Gov.-elect Tim Kaine supported the constitutional protection for the trust fund, which has frequently depleted by non-transportation projects.

"Often, money is taken out of that fund for other projects," Kaine said in September while campaigning in Alexandria. "I'll make sure that stops."

Another amendment that Moran plans to support in the upcoming session creates a new commission to make independent suggestions to the legislature during the redistricting process. After every United States Census, the General Assembly draws new boundaries for its House and Senate districts. Critics charge that the maps are drawn in a way that is overly political, arbitrarily grouping areas in a way that is harmful to democratic representation.

"The commission would make recommendations to the legislature," Moran said, adding that it would have two Republicans, two Democrats and one independent member selected by the Virginia Supreme Court. "We have the ability to make this work."

With the next censes approaching in 2010, Moran is working against the clock to create the new commission.

"Time is running out," he said. "If we act now, we could work with the League of Women Voters, which is currently studying the issue."

ANOTHER ISSUE that Moran plans to support in the upcoming session is the ability of T.C. Williams High School to lengthen its summer vacation in 2007. This would allow the local school administration enough time to facilitate a move into a new $98.9-million facility.

"In order to ensure a smooth opening of the new T.C. Williams in September 2007, it is necessary to have as much time as possible during the summer to accomplish the complex tasks associated with building a new school on the same site as the old one," said Superintendent Rebecca Perry. "Opening school before Labor Day in September 2006 would permit us to complete the school year by June 1, 2007, giving the builders adequate time with students off of the site."

Although Moran expected to get resistance from the hospitality and tourism industries, he said that the temporary nature of the request should make it acceptable to business interests. Alexandria is seeking a one-year exemption to the requirement that schools start after Labor Day.

"This is one year in one school," he said. "There’s no reason we shouldn’t be able to do this."