Improvements to the commute in the Va. 28 corridor are on the ballot twice this November. There’s a $355 million road bond referendum that includes $200 million to either create a bypass or widen the busy commuter stretch between Manassas and Centreville.
And voters in the 13th District of the House of Delegates will also be asked to choose the legislator who can bring state resources to the road project.
Incumbent Del. Danica Roem, a Democrat, defeated longtime legislator Bob Marshall in 2017 based largely on her persistent calls to get something done for the residents, business owners and commuters traveling on the busy road.
She points to movement by transportation officials in Richmond to address the problem, but her opponent, Republican Kelly McGinn, is asking where is the money needed for costly upgrades.
“Fixing Route 28 remains my number one priority, that hasn’t changed,” Roem said. “And we’ve actually made some progress.”
Earlier this month, state transportation officials held a public meeting to weigh changes to intersections on the existing road, based largely on Roem’s push to eliminate traffic lights on a particular 2-mile stretch in the Yorkshire area.
While the state found money for the $300,000 intersection study, funding hasn't been identified for the project. And the state refused to fund the larger widening/bypass project as proposals work their way through federal environmental studies.
McGinn said she’ll press for state funding for the road, regardless of the results of the bond referendum.
“(Route) 28 is no longer just an inconvenience, it’s a public safety issue,” said McGinn, who spends a lot of time on the road traveling with her children. “We have got to find the political will to do something, and there’s nothing like an angry mother.”
Roem said she helped find the legislative votes needed to claw back some funding for future Northern Virginia transportation needs, and noted $128 million has been allocated in regional transportation dollars for improvements to Route 28 on the stretch in Fairfax County.
“I’m the only candidate in the race that not just has a record of talking about it, but doing something about it,” Roem said, pointing to the work she has done advocating for the road and transparent details she shares about her legislative plans on her website.
With intersection study results in hand, Roem said she’ll enter the next legislative session ready to secure future state and regional funding.
“Anyone who is going to challenge how vigilant I’ve been on Route 28 — you can’t do that in good faith. I’ve actually delivered,” Roem said.
McGinn also said she’ll look for ways to support commuters on I-66 who are sitting through construction of new toll lanes and facing more than $40 tolls for one-way trips inside the Beltway.
“I want to be an advocate for people who can’t pay for these tolls every day, who are having to get up in the middle of the night to go to work,” McGinn said.
Roem’s election in 2017 with several other Democrats left Republicans with a slim 51-49 majority in the House of Delegates, eventually leading to a compromise that expanded Medicaid access to 400,000 Virginia residents, including 12,000 residents in the 13th District.
She said she’ll work in the next session to get all of those residents enrolled, and seek out ways to expand Medicaid to help more residents who are underinsured — unable to afford their health care even with some form of private insurance.
“We’ve got to provide another option that people can afford,” Roem said. “That’s why I support a public option.”
McGinn said the state should continue to provide Medicaid to those now covered, but she wants to focus on “market solutions” to lower health care costs. That would include protecting pre-existing conditions, while also making catastrophic plans available to younger workers.
“The vast majority of my constituents are still worried about being one paycheck away from financial devastation if they face a serious illness,” McGinn said. “We need to figure out how to lower the costs and make them more transparent.”
As the wife of a veteran and small business owner, McGinn said she’ll look for ways to ensure veterans are getting the benefits they’ve earned and she wants to find ways to support small businesses.
Not surprisingly, Roem circles back to the roads.
“The best thing I can do for small businesses is to eliminate commutes. Traffic congestion affects businesses,” she said. “And not just Route 28 — I’m going to (U.S.) Route 29 next. That’s the next stop on the train.”