Ask the Governor: Terry McAuliffe Oct. 28


Ask the Governor: Terry McAuliffe Oct. 28

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe joined WTOP live in the Glass Enclosed Nerve Center Wednesday morning for "Ask the Governor." Tolls on Interstate 66 and the upcoming election dominated the hour. But the governor also discussed the presidential campaign, the Benghazi hearing and Metro's general manager search.

by Amanda Iacone,

WASHINGTON Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe defended plans to add tolls to a portion of Interstate 66 and said Republicans are misleading voters about the impact of the tolls ahead of next week's election.

Wednesday, on WTOP's "Ask the Governor" program, McAuliffe called out one Republican Senate candidate, Manassas Mayor Hal Parrish, for "absolutely lying" in a new ad that began airing this week. In the ad, Parrish points out the high toll costs and questions why the state would charge Virginians for a road they have already paid for.

"He can't talk about his record, so he's out misleading and lying about the truth," McAuliffe said. 

All 140 General Assembly seats are up for election Tuesday and Democrats need to win one additional seat to retake control of the state Senate. McAuliffe hopes to expand Democratic support in the legislature as he pushes again to expand the state's Medicaid program and to pass tougher gun laws.

But the specter of $17 daily tolls on the stretch of I-66 inside the Capitol Beltway has become a rallying cry for Republican candidates throughout Northern Virginia this campaign season. State Republican leaders have previously said they would stop the plan when the legislature convenes in January.

"No one is paying new tolls," McAuliffe said. "A single driver who can't go on it during the rush hour now will be given the option. It's a choice. It's giving someone a choice they don't have today."

Parrish, who faces Democrat Jeremy McPike to fill retiring Sen. Chuck Colgan's seat, told WTOP that he was not lying to voters. Based on the current proposal, a single driver who travels the entire tolled stretch would pay $17 a day to commute into D.C. and back out again. 

He and other Republicans object to tolling a road that has already been paid for without adding capacity.

 Parrish also questions how the toll revenue would be spent. He says that currently the funds are slated to go to a regional commission focused on transit that does not cover the areas he would represent in the Senate: Manassas, Mansass Park and Prince William County. Instead, he wants a different transportation entity, which includes those communities, to spend the toll money. 

Parrish suggested adding new lanes, which he acknowledged is an idea Arlington County would fight. The interstate narrows through most of Arlington County and is hemmed in by side streets, houses and office buildings, making expansion a costly undertaking. 

 McAuliffe challenged Republicans to come out with an alternate plan if they don't like the idea of the tolls. He also argues that allowing solo drivers to use the lanes during the rush hour is actually an increase in capacity, but without the cost of building new lanes.

"Making decisions takes leadership. Sitting on the sidelines, throwing rocks at the glass wall without any solutions is not leadership. It's time for people to stand up as leaders and say 'here's what I'm going to do.' That's why you need to vote a week from Tuesday. We're sick of the inaction."

House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford, said that the governor's tone and personal attacks aren't productive. Republican officials are simply trying to point out flaws in the governor's plan.

Drivers from Loudoun, Prince William and Fairfax counties who drive on I-66 could pay huge tolls but those tolls would not reduce congestion, Howell said.

"It's not going to add one square foot of new road," he said. 

WTOP's Max Smith contributed to this story.

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