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Transportation bills on the move in General Assembly

Car make their way past the Robert E. Lee Bridge
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Traffic makes its way past the Robert E. Lee Bridge on Feb. 1, 2024 in Richmond.

VPM News spoke with the Transportation Committee chair about how they’re working to get bills passed.

Out of the 1,000-plus bills being debated in this General Assembly session, around 100 fit under the wheel of transportation, with a few dedicated to speed reduction.

“Speed is absolutely a problem in the commonwealth,” said Del. Karrie Delaney (D–Fairfax), chair of the House Transportation Committee.

Here are some statewide figures: In 2023 there were more than 25,000 crashes on Virginia roads, resulting in 449 deaths. More than 2,400 of those involved serious injuries. All of them were caused by speeding, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

“One thing that we have spent some time on this year, and I think we'll continue to study and spend some time on, is what is the best way to really solve the problem of speeding,” said Delaney. “There's a few different ideas that have been put out there by members of the Legislature.”

One bill that has already passed through a subcommittee and is awaiting a vote in the committee includes House Bill 1071, which will allow localities to reduce speeds below 25 mph to a limit of no lower than 15 mph in business and residential areas.

“We want to make sure that we are giving the flexibility needed to analyze situations on particular roadways and adjust speed limits as necessary to make sure that the enforcement that we have in place is appropriate,” she said. She also mentioned the committee was looking at other opportunities to alert drivers to slow down.

There are a handful of bills around the use of speed monitoring devices such as cameras or video that, as of Feb. 1, are still in subcommittees.

“I think one thing that's really important is that the policy that we really put in place is evidence-based, and it's equitable for everyone in Virginia,” she said. “We're looking at what are some of the devices and technology that's available.”

Delaney said her committee does a lot of work reviewing bills — from getting legal advice to talking with experts.

“We'll also sit down with the agencies who are most impacted by the legislation,” she said. “We're trying to negotiate out any conflicts among stakeholders, and hopefully put forward good policy that will benefit the commonwealth as a whole.”

But will the committee’s work lead to any bills being signed by Gov. Glenn Youngkin?

“I think many will,” she said. “I think that we are in a political environment where if you do want your bill to become law, you're going have to walk that tightrope of finding solutions that Democrats support and that Governor Youngkin will agree to sign. That is going to be a more narrow scope.”

Delaney said even though there’s partisan division on many issues, the bills that the transportation committee handles are a bit different.

“One bit of wisdom that I had been told when I first got on this committee is a reminder that transportation issues are often political more so than partisan,” she said. “You may see division on our committee [but] it's not going to be based as much on whether you're Republican or Democrat, but more where you live in Virginia. It's very regional politics.”

Delaney is "optimistic" that many of the bills heard in the transportation committee are "largely going to be uncontested votes by the time they hit the floor."

But before Youngkin can sign the legislation, Delaney’s transportation bills must first cross over to the Senate for debate and passage.

That happens later this month.

Updated: February 7, 2024 at 5:03 PM EST
This piece has been updated with a chart that better clarifies the number of speed-related accidents in the commonwealth, using figures from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Ian M. Stewart is the transportation reporter and fill-in anchor for VPM News.