I first decided to run for office because of how many important issues were being ignored by the General Assembly, issues that impact Virginia families every day. I have represented Norfolk in the State Senate since 2008 and now I am running for Lieutenant Governor. I want to move us away from the extremist agenda that has overrun the General Assembly and shift our focus towards the issues that matter most to Virginians, like solving our transportation crisis and securing our economic future.
The traffic in the Hampton Roads region mirrors the congestion on Northern Virginia’s roadways. Sitting bumper to bumper on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is no different than sitting on Rt. 66 or the Beltway during rush hour. Snarled traffic diminishes our standing as a great place to do business, and detracts from our quality of life.
Our Commonwealth still has some serious transportation hurdles to overcome, but this year we made some significant progress. I joined a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers to support this year’s transportation bill. While it is far from perfect, it was a compromise that put Virginia on course to address its transportation needs. The bill was supported by the business community because it will enable Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads to utilize new transportation money for projects to relieve the chronic gridlock.
As a doctor, when I see patients, the first thing I do is diagnose the problem and then move forward with the best treatment based on the facts. We know what the diagnosis is for Virginia’s transportation troubles. We just need to move forward with the proper treatment and focus on what needs to be done.
Mass transit is a key component to solving our transportation challenges. This year’s transportation bill invested in the Rail to Dulles project and intercity passenger rail. The Silver Line project is important for Northern Virginia, because it will give more commuters the option of taking the metro and lowering the number of vehicles on the road. Giving commuters options inevitably will unclog Northern Virginia’s roadways.
The Silver Line is not only great news for commuters, but great news for our business climate. The Silver Line will continue to create jobs and make Northern Virginia an even more attractive place to do business. The economic engines of our Commonwealth encounter crippling traffic problems and in order to maintain a strong business climate we must invest in transportation infrastructure. This will not only grow the economy in Northern Virginia, but will also benefit the entire state’s economy.
Additionally, we must ensure that our seaports can move cargo quickly and that our airports function efficiently. Virginia businesses, large and small, depend on our transportation system to meet the daily demands of commerce. In the Senate I have worked closely with the Northern Virginia delegation on important transportation issues facing the D.C. metro area. As Lt. Governor I will continue to make sure that our infrastructure and transportation are a top priority.
Much like Northern Virginia, 50 percent of the regional economy in Hampton Roads is connected to the federal government. A weak transportation system puts federal investments in Virginia at risk. In fact, the U.S. military put our Commonwealth on notice, and threatened to relocate key assets in Virginia if we did not solve our transportation issues. We cannot put Virginia jobs and our national security at risk by refusing to upgrade our transportation system. I will work with both parties in the General Assembly to make sure our infrastructure can be adequately maintained.
In recent years, Virginia has fallen from being the best state for business to the fifth best. One of the primary reasons for this drop is Virginia’s deteriorating transportation infrastructure. This year the American Society of Civil Engineers gave Virginia a D+ rating for infrastructure. The bottom line is that overwhelmed roads stunt economic growth. Virginia can do better and we are moving in the right direction.
No one should have to sit in hours of traffic to watch their child’s baseball game or school play. I understand how frustrating this can be. Commute times can decrease once the proper steps are taken in mass transit, making it easier for everyone to get from one place to the next. Investing in transportation solutions not only makes good business sense, but improves our quality of life. Companies and employees will not want relocate to Virginia if commute times are unmanageable.
In addition, we need to put an end to the divisive social agenda that has been holding us back, so we can focus on critical issues like transportation. As Lt. Governor, I will continue to work with Democrats and Republicans in the General Assembly to make sure that transportation is a cornerstone for our families, our businesses, and our future.
Ralph Northam is a member of the Virginia State Senate and Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia.