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Ryan Persaud

Census Data Shows Growth in Northern Virginia, Decline in the South

By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

Numbers from our region:

 



Virginia locality 2010 census 2016 estimate 2017 estimate Absolute pop. change, 2010-2017 Percent pop.
change, 2010-2017
Absolute pop. change, 2016-2017
Brunswick County 17,425 16,275 16,244 -1,181 -6.80% -31
Chesapeake City 222,306 237,621 240,397 18,091 8.10% 2,776
Chesterfield County 316,239 338,815 343,599 27,360 8.70% 4,784
Dinwiddie County 28,014 28,025 28,208 194 0.70% 183
Emporia City 5,925 5,375 5,282 -643 -10.90% -93
Franklin City 8,580 8,228 8,176 -404 -4.70% -52
Goochland County 21,694 22,475 22,685 991 4.60% 210
Greensville County 12,245 11,551 11,679 -566 -4.60% 128
Hampton City 137,384 135,332 134,669 -2,715 -2.00% -663
Hanover County 99,846 104,347 105,923 6,077 6.10% 1,576
Henrico County 306,868 326,147 327,898 21,030 6.90% 1,751
Hopewell City 22,602 22,619 22,621 19 0.10% 2
Mecklenburg County 32,721 30,786 30,686 -2,035 -6.20% -100
Newport News City 180,963 180,388 179,388 -1,575 -0.90% -1,000
Norfolk City 242,823 245,532 244,703 1,880 0.80% -829
Nottoway County 15,852 15,510 15,434 -418 -2.60% -76
Petersburg City 32,437 31,850 31,750 -687 -2.10% -100
Poquoson City 12,157 11,947 12,053 -104 -0.90% 106
Portsmouth City 95,527 94,997 94,572 -955 -1.00% -425
Powhatan County 28,062 28,398 28,601 539 1.90% 203
Prince Edward County 23,357 23,023 22,703 -654 -2.80% -320
Prince George County 35,706 37,807 37,809 2,103 5.90% 2
Richmond City 204,271 225,288 227,032 22,761 11.10% 1,744
Richmond County 9,254 8,784 8,939 -315 -3.40% 155
Southampton County 18,570 18,019 17,750 -820 -4.40% -269
Suffolk City 84,570 89,294 90,237 5,667 6.70% 943
Surry County 7,065 6,570 6,540 -525 -7.40% -30
Sussex County 12,070 11,426 11,373 -697 -5.80% -53
Virginia Beach City 437,907 451,404 450,435 12,528 2.90% -969

RICHMOND – Population is booming in Northern Virginia and shrinking in many rural localities in the southern and southwestern parts of the state, according to data released Thursday by the U.S Census Bureau.

The population of the city of Falls Church grew 5.2 percent between July 1, 2016, and July 1, 2017, the data showed. That was more than any U.S. county with at least 10,000 residents. (The Census Bureau puts Virginia’s cities in the same geographic category as counties.)

Three other Virginia localities grew more than 3 percent over the past year: Loudoun County and Manassas Park near D.C., and New Kent County east of Richmond.

Since 2010, Loudoun County’s population has increased more than 27 percent, to more than 380,000. That percentage increase ranks fourth among all U.S. counties with at least 200,000 people.

The growth in Northern Virginia is largely due to large employers located there and in Washington, said Hamilton Lombard, research specialist at the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, which worked with the U.S. Census Bureau on the population estimates.

“A lot of that is still commuters to D.C., but you have big job centers now in Northern Virginia by itself,” Lombard said. “Fairfax has more people in it than D.C. does.”

Since the census in April 2010, the population of Fairfax County has grown more than 6 percent, to almost 1.15 million, the Census Bureau’s estimates show. The District of Columbia has about 694,000 residents; however, its population has increased more than 15 percent since 2010.

Like the nation’s capital, Virginia’s state capital has shown robust growth after decades of population decline.

Since 2010, the population of the city of Richmond has increased more than 11 percent – more than the suburban counties of Chesterfield (less than 9) percent, Henrico (almost 7 percent) and Hanover (6 percent).

Lombard said Richmond’s turnaround reflects a national trend of more investment in cities.

“It had a higher vacancy rate, a lot of empty homes – it was losing population for decades,” Lombard said. “You get around to the time of the housing crisis, and a lot of people couldn’t buy; they had to rent. That also made Richmond more attractive, because they had more rentals. It’s quite remarkable how it’s turned around and started growing.”

Lombard attributed part of the growth to the redevelopment of historic properties.

“Virginia has a very generous tax credit system that encourages redeveloping historical buildings,” Lombard said. “That’s created a lot of new residential units and really pristine historic areas.”

Of Virginia’s 133 counties and cities, 78 gained population over the past year – and 71 have more residents now than in 2010. Fifteen localities have grown by more than 10 percent since 2010 – including Fredericksburg (17 percent), Prince William County (15 percent), James City County (12 percent) and Charlottesville (11 percent).

In contrast, 62 of Virginia’s localities – mostly in the south and southwestern regions of the state – have seen a decrease in residents since 2010. The population has fallen about 9 percent in Bath and Tazewell counties and almost 11 percent in Buchanan County and the City of Emporia.

August Wallmeyer, author of “The Extremes of Virginia,” which focuses on the economic development of the state’s rural areas, said there are many reasons for the population decrease, such as a lack of economic opportunity and a decline in “low tech” industries such as coal mining, tobacco farming and textile manufacturing.

“The principal reasons are lack of jobs and economic opportunity,” Wallmeyer said. “The jobs part, I think, is related primarily due to the poor public education system that has not prepared people in these areas for modern-day, information-centered, technological-type careers.”

Wallmeyer said younger people are fleeing these areas due to what he sees as poor public education systems that lag far behind the schools in the wealthier areas of the state.

“I quoted in my book the chancellor of Virginia’s community college system as saying that if you looked at the poorer areas of the state, and considered those areas as a state by themselves, in terms of educational attainment, they would be dead last in the nation,” Wallmeyer said, “while the rest of Virginia – the urban quarter, the wealthier part of Virginia – would rank No. 2 in the nation.”

Wallmeyer said efforts by federal and state governments and regional coalitions to improve the economy in these poorer, rural areas have been largely unsuccessful.

“There are some people I have talked to in my research, some public officials, who say, only half-jokingly, ‘In my little county, the last person to leave, please cut off the lights, because there’s nothing left,’” Wallmeyer said.

According to the latest data from the Census Bureau, Virginia remains the 12th most populous state with about 8.47 million residents. That is an increase of less than 6 percent since 2010 and less than 1 percent over the past year – about the same as the U.S. as a whole.

Lombard said one big takeaway from the new data is how much slower Virginia has grown this decade.

“We’re getting close to eight and a half million, but the growth rate we’re hitting annually is really the lowest it’s been since before the Great Depression,” Lombard said. “The country’s population has been gradually slowing down a little bit just because of the population aging, but Virginia has slowed down a lot more quickly than the rest of the country.”

As for predictions, Lombard expects more people will be living in Northern Virginia.

“By our projection, by 2040, half of Virginia’s population should live in Fredericksburg, or north of it,” Lombard said.

Citizen Groups Voice Concerns Over Medicaid Expansion

By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A few days after the Republican-controlled House of Delegates reached a bipartisan compromise on Medicaid expansion, both conservative and progressive citizen groups are voicing their concerns.

The proposal, HB 338, would require “able-bodied adult” individuals seeking Medicaid to fulfill a work requirement – to pursue training, employment, education, or “other community engagement opportunities” – in order to obtain health care coverage. The work requirement would not apply to children, or to adults who are over 65, have certain disabilities or are the primary caregiver for a dependent.

The Family Foundation, a Richmond-based grassroots conservative organization, urged residents in a blog post on Tuesday to contact their delegates and voice their opposition to the notion of expanding Medicaid.

“After eight years of holding the line and refusing to ‘take the bait’ for a massive federal power grab, corresponding spikes in healthcare costs, and virtually guaranteed new tax liabilities for hardworking Virginians, the House plan would now capitulate to the specious promise of ‘free money’ from the federal government to pay for healthcare,” the post said.

The organization acknowledged that more Virginians will receive care under the plan but argued that it would come at a cost to taxpayers. “While tax increases may not be immediate, they are inevitable if this policy goes through,” the post said.

Progress Virginia, a liberal advocacy organization, also spoke out against the proposal, but for different reasons. It argued that while the House plan to expand Medicaid is a step in the right direction, the work requirement is a cause for concern.

“From the outset, we have opposed attempts to put punitive barriers between Virginians and access to care,” the organization stated in a press release on Sunday. “We have serious reservations about language in the House budget that puts financial restrictions on families’ access to care, premises access to care on the ability to find a good-paying job, or locks our friends and neighbors out of access.”

In a blog post, Progress Virginia argued that work requirements are ineffective and ultimately make health care harder to obtain. The organization also urged progressives to contact their delegates in support of a “clean Medicaid expansion” – Medicaid expansion without the work requirement.

“People have to be healthy in order to work, but that isn’t possible when they don’t have health insurance and can’t see a doctor when they need to,” Progress Virginia said. “Work requirements don’t create jobs or raise wages – they put onerous and punitive requirements between our friends and neighbors and the healthcare they need.”

Gov. Ralph Northam said that while he supports a more “straightforward” expansion of Medicaid, he is willing to compromise with Republicans.

“I respect the priorities of the House majority and I am encouraged by and supportive of our work together to bring about a new ‘Virginia Way’ on Medicaid,” Northam said in a statement on Sunday.

“I look forward to working with the House and Senate to finalize this proposal, ensure its passage and pursue an implementation plan that will provide the benefits of expanded coverage to Virginia families.”

New Law Would Bring Public Meetings into the Digital Age

By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Bringing government further into the digital age, the General Assembly has given final approval to two bills that aim to modernize how members of city councils, school boards and other public bodies can attend and hold meetings using electronic technologies.

HB 906 and HB 908 would make it easier for public officials and citizens to attend meetings remotely and restrict public officials from texting each other during meetings. Both bills were introduced by Del. Roxann Robinson, R-Chesterfield, and would amend Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act, which ensures that citizens have access to public records upon request and the right to attend public government meetings.

On Thursday, the Senate joined the House in unanimously passing the two bills. They now go to Gov. Ralph Northam to be signed into law.

The measures were recommended by the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, a state agency that resolves FOIA disputes. The council consulted the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, a nonpartisan and nonprofit organization that works to improve public access to government records and meetings. The coalition’s executive director, Megan Rhyne, said her group didn’t have any objections to the legislation.

HB 908 would remove a requirement for public officials attending a meeting remotely to have that remote area be open to the public. This would allow officials to call in from their home or a hotel room without making that area open to the public.

Alan Gernhardt, the executive director and senior attorney at the Virginia FOIA Council, said the current law dates back before people had cellphones and had to call in remotely from places such as community colleges and conference rooms.

“Of course, today, everyone’s got a cellphone,” Gernhardt said. “People can literally call in from anywhere. It just doesn’t make sense to require those to be open to the public in the same way, as if you were at a conference facility or something.”

To ensure transparency, however, the bill states that members of the public must have access to a “substantially equivalent” electronic means to witness the meeting.

“I think that [HB] 908 was trying to strike a balance between members of a public body using technology to participate as a member, but also preserving public right of access to meetings that may not all be in one place,” Rhyne said.

Gernhardt said the bill will enable people who can’t otherwise attend a public meeting to keep track of the meeting on their cellphone or computer.

“Especially for some people who are at work or are watching their kids and they can’t physically come to Richmond,” Gernhardt said, “this gives them a little more chance to actually observe and witness the operation of government, and that is extending the purpose of FOIA.”

HB 906 clarifies the definition of electronic communication in the Virginia Freedom of Information Act.

Gernhardt said that previously, the definition didn’t cover methods of communication such as text messages, and that started to create problems at public meetings.

“They had a public meeting going on, but people were text messaging each other,” Gernhardt said. “And we said ‘Wait a second. Isn’t that kind of like having an electronic meeting within a regular meeting?’ It made everyone uncomfortable, at the very least.”

Rhyne said that in addition to supporting these pieces of legislation, the Virginia Coalition for Open Government also supports upcoming bills such as SB 336, which requires every elected public body to allow the opportunity for public comment during any open meeting.

House Panel Rejects ‘Net Neutrality’ Bill

By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A bill to prohibit internet service providers from prioritizing or blocking certain websites based on content or hosting platform was killed Tuesday in a House subcommittee.

The House Commerce and Labor subcommittee voted 5-0 against the bill, with one abstention.

HB 705 was introduced by Del. Lee Carter, D-Manassas, who argued that Virginia should maintain the principle of net neutrality despite a recent decision by the Federal Communications Commission to reverse such rules.

“The internet, since its inception, has been run by agreement as content neutral,” Carter said. “In 2015, the federal government set in place regulation to codify what was already being done, and those were overturned in December.”

Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem, chair of the subcommittee, argued that the bill would prompt broadband providers to pull out of Virginia.

“We are so desperate in parts of the area that I represent to get broadband, that any barrier to entry in that market that we impose is a risk to prevent them from coming,” Habeeb said. “I can’t imagine supporting a bill that may lead to a broadband provider not considering entering the Craig County market, for example.”

Carter disagreed that net neutrality would discourage internet service providers from providing services to Virginia residents.

“If the broadband providers are willing to forego 8.5 million customers because they can’t impose additional charges on services rather than offering all-inclusive packages,” Carter said, “that would greatly surprise me.”

Habeeb also argued that the FCC ruling would override the bill, restricting Virginia’s ability to create its own net neutrality law. Carter disagreed, saying that instating net neutrality rules is within the state’s purview.

“This is not dealing with interstate commerce,” Carter said. “We are discussing explicitly the point of sale, and the point of sale is between a Virginia resident and a Virginia company offering broadband service.”

Representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union and GreenSmith Energy Management Systems, as well as a few private citizens, told the subcommittee they supported Carter’s bill. They said it will prevent corporations from deciding what online information Virginians receive.

The bill was opposed by representatives of internet service providers such as T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless as well as the Virginia Cable Telecommunications Association and the Virginia Chamber of Commerce.

“This bill will increase cost to consumers,” said Ray LaMura, president of the Virginia Cable of Telecommunications Association. “It will stifle investment in new technologies, and it will stifle investment in rural telehealth, which will also chill investments to unserved areas of the commonwealth.”

Latina Lawmaker Delivers Response to President’s Address

By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

One of Virginia’s first Latina lawmakers delivered the Democrats’ Spanish-language response to President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, saying he “has pushed a dark and extremist agenda that damages our national values and endangers national security.”

Del. Elizabeth Guzmán, a first-term delegate representing Virginia’s 31st District, criticized the Trump administration for actions she considered discriminatory. Those actions included rescinding protections for certain young immigrants under the Deferred Action For Childhood Arrivals program and, in Guzmán’s view, Trump’s lack of action in providing citizens in Puerto Rico with hurricane relief.

“We should not accept nor normalize the atrocious and insulting way in which this president characterizes our communities,” she said in her nationally broadcast speech. “Doing so would mean giving in to a false and dangerous narrative.”

Guzmán emphasized the need to serve middle-class families instead of supporting the wealthiest, as she claims Trump’s policies do.

“Instead of fighting for the middle class, President Trump rolled back progress towards an overtime wage raise,” Guzmán said. “We, as Americans, deserve a leader that defends the interests of the middle class – not someone who helps the privileged and powerful step on everyone else.”

Guzmán closed her speech by calling upon citizens to make their voices heard by voting and running for office.

“I was told that Virginia wasn’t ready to elect a delegate with Latina roots - and look what happened,” said Guzmán, who was born in Peru and is a social worker in Prince William County. “We need candidates who worry about the fact that our children are at risk of inheriting a nation that no longer believes in equal opportunities for all.”

Guzmán’s speech, which aired with English subtitles for non-Spanish speakers, followed one from Rep. Joe Kennedy III, a Massachusetts congressman and grandson of Robert F. Kennedy who was chosen to lead the Democratic rebuttal. Kennedy called for the unity of the American people while also pointing out the discriminatory nature of the Trump administration.

"It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos, partisanship, politics, but it's far bigger than that," Kennedy said. "This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection."

The Democratic Party was responding to Trump’s first State of the Union address. In the address, the president reflected on his first year of office, citing tax cuts, the repeal of parts of the Affordable Care Act, and the creation of new jobs as major accomplishments for his administration.

Trump focused on future plans for immigration reform, which included building a border wall, as well as ending programs such as the visa lottery and chain migration, which would strongly limit immigration sponsorships to family members.

“In the age of terrorism, these programs present risks we can just no longer afford,” Trump said. “It’s time to reform these outdated immigration rules and finally bring our immigration system into the 21st century.”

More than 1,000 Attend Women’s March in Richmond

By Ryan Persaud and Alexandra Sosik, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – Demonstrators took to the streets of Carytown on Saturday for the second annual Women’s March, recalling the demonstrations a year ago when hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington and cities around the world to protest President Donald Trump’s inauguration and the GOP’s stance on issues such women’s rights and immigration.

Hundreds of demonstrators held up signs that ranged from mocking the president to promoting equality. They chanted phrases such as “This is what democracy looks like,” “Women’s rights are equal rights” and “Coexist.”

Kim Young, a demonstrator who missed the Women’s March last year due to health issues, said she was excited to attend Saturday’s event.

“It’s about freedom, choice, ‘Love is Love,’ [and] showing the president that not all Americans in the United States are in agreement with him,” Young said.

The Richmond demonstration was one of many across the country Saturday. Brigette Newberry, a demonstrator who attended last year’s Women’s March in D.C. and a counterprotest against the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue in September, said it is necessary to resist the current administration.

“I feel like it’s important that women unite together,” Newberry said.

Kathe Wittig, a retired Virginia Commonwealth University faculty member who participated in anti-war protests in the 1970s, said she worries that Trump’s policies will set society back decades.

“We have to let the world know that we’re not going to sit back,” Wittig said. “He is a disaster.”

Gov. Ralph Northam also joined event organizers in leading the march. Northam helped carry a banner that read, “Women’s March RVA.”

Mary Leffler, one of the organizers of the event, attended the 2017 Women’s March in D.C. As the anniversary approached, she looked for whether others locally were commemorating that demonstration.

“I sought out to see if there was already a march happening, and there wasn’t. So I made a few phone calls, called the city manager’s office, helped decide this location and then just started spreading the word,” Leffler said.

Leffler said she was surprised at the size of the crowd.

“We’ve had estimates of a little over 3,000 – some more like 1,500,” Leffler said. “We’re thrilled.”

Mark Loewen, a children’s book author, brought his family with him, including his 5-year-old daughter.

“We talked about girls can do anything that boys can do, and that girls should be making the same amount of decisions that boys make,” Loewen said. “We’re so excited about women’s voices getting stronger, and we need them to be stronger.”

Members of the National Organization for Women, which advocates for equality for all women, were also in attendance. Andrea Lancaster, president of NOW’s Richmond chapter, said she was pleasantly surprised by the event’s turnout.

“A few of our board members, me included, went up to the march in D.C. last year, which was overwhelmingly huge, so we didn’t know what to expect from Richmond,” Lancaster said. “It’s exciting to see how much momentum the movement still has.”

NOW and other groups are urging the Virginia General Assembly to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ERA would explicitly state that women have the same rights as men in the U.S.

ERA supporters believe that if two more states ratify the amendment, it will be added to the Constitution. There is a legal debate about that because the deadline to ratify the ERA has passed.

According to Lancaster, Virginia has become a focus of ERA proponents because Democrats have gained power in the General Assembly. Last fall, the Democratic Party picked up 15 seats in the House; however, Republicans still hold a 51-49 majority.

Lancaster said there is a need for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women equal rights.

“If you ask a lot of people in the streets, they think we already have that,” Lancaster said. “But we don’t, and there is no constitutional protected equality.”

Governor Northam Emphasizes Democratic Priorities, Diversity

By Ryan Persaud, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – In an address Monday night to members of the General Assembly, newly inaugurated Gov. Ralph Northam outlined his vision for the legislative session, calling on lawmakers to expand Medicaid, protect abortion rights, increase funding for education and pass gun control measures.

“If we take these steps, we will answer the charge our voters gave us to make Virginia work better for everyone – no matter who they are or where they are from,” Northam said.

The governor called attention to the diversity of his cabinet – which contains more women than men – and to the growing diversity of the House and Senate. Twelve women were elected to the House last fall.

“This cabinet is led by women,” Northam said. “And like this new General Assembly, it is also one of the most diverse in our history … When people say, ‘We can’t find enough women or enough diverse candidates for leadership roles,’ I say — you’re not looking hard enough.”

Northam also touched on expanding voting rights, such as no-excuse absentee voting, restoring the voting rights of felons who have served their time and raising the threshold for felony larceny.

“There is no excuse for the criminal act of theft,” Northam said. “But a teenager who steals one used iPhone or a pair of boots should not have her entire life defined by that one mistake.”

Democratic issues – such as Medicare expansion, abortion rights and gun control – were met with applause and standing ovations by Democrats, while Republicans largely remained seated and silent during the address.

Despite focusing on partisan issues for most of his speech, Northam cited the need for bipartisanship and for both parties to work together.

“Bipartisanship has been the watchword of the first few days of this session,” Northam said. “For that I am thankful.”

The Republican response to Northam’s address was delivered by newly elected Del. Emily Brewer of Suffolk and Sen. Glen Sturtevant of Chesterfield.

They emphasized the GOP’s priorities of crafting a balanced budget, fixing what they see as a broken health-care system, and improving education in the state.

“Virginia Republicans are committed to a cooperative and collaborative approach to considering legislation and passing a responsible budget,” Sturtevant said. “We will continue our long-standing emphasis on fiscally responsible, conservative budgeting, looking for cost savings and efficiencies to ensure your family gets the greatest possible value out of every tax dollar you send to Richmond.”

Brewer highlighted the need to deliver practical economic solutions to meet citizens’ needs.

“From measures that will protect and provide for the women and men who serve in law enforcement, to long-overdue changes that will grant family leave to state employees who adopt a child,” Brewer said, “we will be advancing changes that will make the commonwealth an even better place to live, to work and to raise a family.”

Transportation Secretary Defends Tolls on I-66

By Ryan Persaud and Yasmine Jumaa, Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A month after the fury over what many drivers considered excessive tolls on Interstate 66, Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne defended the tolls, saying they are necessary for increasing the flow of traffic on the highway in Northern Virginia.

The tolls, which vary based on demand and amount of traffic, have reached as high as $44 for a 10-mile drive since they were implemented on Dec. 4.

“I would’ve anticipated that happening a lot lower than the $44, but it did not,” Layne said. “People chose to pay it, but it was a choice. Our other option is we could just limit the road when it reaches a certain level [to] HOV users. The issue with that is that we’re taking away that choice for the people who want to pay it.”

Layne spoke Tuesday to the General Assembly’s Joint Commission on Transportation Accountability. His report came a month after Del. Tim Hugo of Fairfax, who chairs the House Republican Caucus, called the I-66 tolls “exorbitant” and “unacceptable.”

The tolling is in effect weekdays only, during rush hours and in the peak direction, on about 10 miles of I-66, from Route 29 in Rosslyn to Interstate 495.

Sen. Frank Wagner, R-Virginia Beach, said the high tolls are a result of a lack of state funding for road projects.

“This is all symptomatic of not having enough money to begin with to build the highways,” Wagner said. “We’re having to do these unique types of programs to build these highways.”

Del.-elect Danica Roem, a Democrat from Manassas, told Layne about constituents hit hard by the tolls. They included a combat veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder who must drive by himself as a part of his treatment. The constituent said that avoiding the tolls added 45 minutes to his commute.

Layne insisted that commuters can take alternate routes such as Route 50 and the George Washington Memorial Parkway. But another constituent Roem spoke to said he commutes from Manassas Park to Georgetown and cannot take any alternate pathways. The driver stated that he does not know how to budget his money due to the varying tolls.

“That’s the beast of the dynamic tolling process: You don’t know what it’s going to be each day until the time you get there because it’s basically volume control,” Roem said. “He [the constituent from Manassas Park] had a number of concerns with this.”

Layne said the revenue from the tolls goes toward funding other transportation projects.

“They will help pay for the road construction; they will help pay for multi-modal transportation and operation of the road,” Layne said.

After monitoring the corridors surrounding I-66 and alternative routes, Layne said that so far the data indicated no significant change in travel time on those routes.

“We need to continue to monitor this, and it may require that we do adjustments, but as of right now we do not see any significant impact to these parallel corridors,” Layne said.

Last month, Hugo released a statement criticizing Layne and Gov. Terry McAuliffe on the toll rates.

“Governor McAuliffe has gone on TV several times this week saying $40 toll prices are the way ‘it’s supposed to work.’ I could not disagree more,” Hugo said. “The hard-working people of Northern Virginia should not be forced to get a part-time job to be able to afford to drive to their full-time job.”

These are Layne’s final days as the commonwealth’s secretary of transportation. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam has appointed former Lynchburg lawmaker Shannon Valentine to the position.

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