Report from the General Assembly #4, Thurs. Jan. 19, 2017

The meeting of the House Transportation Committee at 8:30 this morning led off with a 40 minute, very thorough and well presented briefing by Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne on how the construction project selection process under the House Bill 2 rules has been working. The Committee members and spectators all were impressed by the way the Secretary handled the briefing, as well as the way things seem to be working, which most felt was a big improvement over the way the Commonwealth Transportation Board had operated previously.

The briefing concluded, Chairman Villanueva proceeded to address the bills on the Docket,

requesting that his HB 1606 bill (prohibiting the use by a driver of a hand held communication device in a work zone) be passed by for the day, which means it should be on the Docket along with his HB2021 (trail permitted on the unused light rail right of way between Va. Beach & Norfolk) & HB 2016 (Drone vehicles permitted on sidewalks and trails) at the Committee meeting next Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

Then he called for his other bill, HB 2023 (the Maintenance Reimbursement bill) to be heard, asking Del. Garrett seated next to him to take over, while he came down front to present the bill, which he did after a very short preamble. A very few questions from the Committee members with only Del. Minchew of Loudoun making some comments in a negative vein. Then the call for any supporting the bill to step up, which was answered by Brian Solis, the City’s Transportation and Transit Manager, and Wayne Wilcox, the Senior Planner in the City’s Parks and Recreation Dept. (both of whom had made the trip up from Virginia Beach), plus a young lady from Richmond who stated that both she and her husband did not have a car and rode to work and around town on their bicycles, so were very strong supporters of bike lanes. Seeing that the proceedings were going very smoothly, and having learned long ago that there was no need for additional testimony when that was the case, both Champe and I stayed in our seats.

Prior to the meeting, we had shown the “Level of Service” language in the bill (which several of our members had expressed concern about) to several knowledgeable people, all of whom felt that the language at the end that stated “or if it will be reduced that the associated roadway network will retain adequate capacity to meet current and future mobility needs of all users” would cover any problems a reduction in level of service might present. Accordingly, we decided not to try to amend the bill, but to let it sail on through, as is.

With no more testimony, the vote was called, which was posted as 20-0 for reporting the bill, later amended to 22-0 as the proxies for two committee members who were out of the room were added in. Now the bill goes on to the House floor in the next few days. It really is a pleasure to have a bill being carried by a Committee Chairman, a luxury I’ve never experienced before.

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