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Richmond seeks greater voice on Va. transportation panel

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The Richmond region wants another seat at the table when Virginia divides a dwindling pot of money for road construction.

Adding an at-large seat for the region on the Commonwealth Transportation Board is the top priority of the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission in the General Assembly session that will begin a week from today.

Local officials say the Richmond and Petersburg area never has held an at-large seat on the state board, only a representative for the regional construction district, and has gotten short shrift in road funding as a result.

“We have 7 percent of the vote and 15 percent of the population,” said Hanover County Planning Commissioner C. Harold Padgett, “so our suspicion is we may not be getting our fair share of money.”

Padgett, speaking at the commission’s annual legislative breakfast today, said part of the problem is an archaic definition of urban and rural areas that has diminished opportunities for representation of the region on the highway board.

The commission has asked Del. Christopher K. Peace, R-Hanover, to sponsor legislation to change the definition of an urban area and add an at-large seat for the region on the state board.

The legislative wish list also includes more federal money for developing high-speed passenger rail through Virginia, help for localities in meeting federal water-quality standards, restoration of homeland security funding in the region, and approval of a proposal to allow localities to use federal historic tax credits to renovate historic school buildings for use as public schools.

That wish list will depend in large part on federal funding that appears likely to diminish rather than expand, as Congress wrestles with thorny issues of paying for continuing tax cuts while reducing the budget deficit, said Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-Va., the keynote speaker at today’s breakfast.

“This is simple, zero-sum game arithmetic,” said Scott, who represents the state’s 3rd Congressional District.

“We’ve got to make some choices,” he said.

-- Michael Martz

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