TRANSPORTATION FUNDING is odd fodder for demagoguery. An exception to that rule is Northern Virginia, where Republicans have often been content to denounce commuter traffic — and then opportunistically denounce efforts to address it by raising revenue.
The latest example involves misleading television attack ads paid for by the National Republican Campaign Committee, seeking to help an endangeredGOP incumbent, Rep. Barbara Comstock, hold on to her Northern Virginia seat. Ms. Comstock’s 10th Congressional District, including Loudoun County and parts of Fairfax and Prince William counties, was won by Hillary Clinton in 2016.
The NRCC ads target the Democratic challenger, state Sen. Jennifer T. Wexton, for having had the gall to support a state tax increase in 2013 — the first in a quarter century to raise fresh funds for Virginia’s sclerotic, badly overcrowded transportation network. Never mind that the measure was backed by Republican legislative leaders and signed by a Republican governor, who rightly regarded it as a badly overdue compromise to save the state’s economy. And never mind that Ms. Wexton had not yet even entered politics when the measure was voted on and approved.
Never mind, either, that the bill has helped pay for an array of new and long-standing projects in the 10th District and elsewhere in Northern Virginia, including dozens of road improvements as well as Metro’s Silver Line extension. Finally, never mind that without the billions of dollars in new funding, traffic today and in the future would be worse — yes, even worse — and the region’s dynamism sapped.
Ms. Comstock, who signed a pledge as a state lawmaker never to raise taxes, opposed the transportation funding measure, allowing dogmatism to mean more than common sense despite the obvious wishes of her constituents. That didn’t stop her from attending a ribbon-cutting for the Silver Line, thereby taking credit for a project partly funded (to the tune of $300 million) by the very bill she opposed.
Equally far-fetched, the NRCC ads also seek to blame Ms. Wexton for high rush-hour tolls paid by commuters driving solo on Interstate 66 — despite the fact that she had no role in formulating those tolls and in fact has denounced them as “outrageous.” Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that before the surge-pricing tolls were imposed, solo drivers were forbidden from driving on the road during rush hour, and fined $1,000 if caught.
Ms. Comstock’s Republican predecessor in the 10th District seat, Rep. Frank R. Wolf, was a farsighted champion of the region’s transportation network, and understood that building and maintaining the roads Northern Virginians rely on required funding. Ms. Comstock, prizing ideological purity over pragmatism, has taken a different tack, encouraged by nonsense of the sort the NRCC is plastering over the airwaves this fall.