Virginia Politicians and Highway Pork

by Lewis Loflin

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation had the following to say about Bristol, VA/TN August 18, 2005:

For a good example of the moral perversity of the budget-busting, pork-barrel highway bill, consider what recently happened in Bristol, Virginia. While on his annual statewide "listening tour" across the state, Republican Sen. George Allen proudly told Bristol voters that their local officials were going to receive even more money from Congress than they had requested for the renovation of the local train station.

Former Rep. Rick Boucher, a Democrat, had requested only $400,000 for the project. Not to be outdone, Sen. John Warner, (now Senator Warner) a Republican, had requested $1 million for the same project. So what did Congress do? It simply combined the two numbers and awarded Bristol officials a grant of $1.4 million.

Laughing about the situation, Allen said, "Congress works in mysterious ways. I'll guarantee they will use this extra $400,000." Extra $400,000? Didn't Allen actually mean "extra $1 million," given that Boucher's request implied that the project could be done for $400,000? Oh well, what's a million dollars to taxpayers who have trouble saving any money these days?


As he pointed out this is indeed a way to purchase votes. While to "simply stuff cash into the hands of individual voters, which would be illegal, they stuff grants of cash into the hands of local public officials and ask their constituents to return them to office so that they can do more of the same." The local politicians rout the funds to their friends and associates in Bristol and Southwest, Virginia, the public sees none of it. As Hornberger says,

The grateful voters from Bristol then clap and happily say, "Thank you, Mssrs. Boucher, Warner, and Allen for having the IRS take our hard-earned money and returning a portion of it to our local public officials to renovate our train station. We are so grateful for what you have done for us. Please do more of it in the future. You are so effective..."

Today in 2008 this nonsense has left Bristol, VA (pop. 17,000) $110 million in debt, and this stupid Train Station still sits empty and unused. Bristol is a welfare basket case.

The Train Station sits empty and unused, but now efforts are underway in Bristol and Abingdon in 2014 to get state-subsidized passenger rail service to come to Bristol. They argue that would create a use for the Train Station they already spent $6 million to renovate.

That's not even the half of it. The construction continues on the multi-billion dollar Coalfields Expressway being built in Buchanan and Dickenson Counties Virginia. Besides being in the middle of nowhere it will have the highest bridges in Virginia.

An earlier project to rebuild Grundy Virginia which will connect to the Expressway cost $250 million and yielded a Wall-Mart - the county lost another 10 percent of its population in the meantime.

2009 More Pork

Project Name: Rocky Knob Heritage Center Amount: $3,918,595

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the first stage of a multi-phase project to develop a tourist attraction in the geologically unique Rocky Knob section of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Project Name: Bristol Multimodal Transportation Terminal and Trolley System Amount: $900,000

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the City of Bristol's Multimodal Transportation Terminal and Trolley System. The City of Bristol will institute a trolley system in its downtown area to enable people to traverse downtown in an environmentally sound way and enhance economic growth and activity in the downtown area.

The project consists of the paving of a city owned tract of land, construction of a covered passenger waiting area furnished with seating and restrooms, and the purchase of three 18-43 passenger trolleys. Two trolleys will be in service with the third available as a backup. The funding provides infrastructure on the Virginia side of the City of Bristol, as the infrastructure on the Tennessee side is already in place.

Project Name: High Knob Tower Amount: $432,000

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the reconstruction of the High Knob Tower in the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia which was destroyed by arson in 2007.

Project Name: Cranesnest Trail Amount: $1,221,792

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the Cranesnet Trail in Dickenson County, Virginia. The Cranesnest Trail is comprised of multiple phases and will be approximately 23 miles long at completion. The Cranesnest Trail is planned to accommodate hiking, biking and horseback riding. Multiple parking areas, restrooms, and an accessible fishing pier will be incorporated into the design.

Project Name: Smith River Trail Amount: $935,791

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the Smith River Trail in Henry County, Virginia. The project will continue the Smith River Trail System from Fieldale, Virginia to connect to previously completed phases of the trail. Activities include design and construction of a 2.5 mile, 10 foot-wide paved trail including a pedestrian bridge over the Smith River.

Project Name: Huckleberry Trail, Christiansburg Extension Amount: $1,962,000

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the Huckleberry Trail in Montgomery County, Virginia. The Huckleberry Trail is an existing 5.76 mile regional trail constructed in the early 1990s that started as a 'rails to trails' project. The project is a multi-jurisdictional project that provides regional mobility for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Project Name: Mayo River Trail Amount: $1,240,220

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the Mayo River Trail in Patrick County, Virginia. The Mayo River Trail will be a public, multi-use trail, spanning approximately three miles from the Patrick Springs-Stuart growth corridor along US Route 58 into Downtown Stuart.

Project Name: Dan River Park Trail Amount: $150,000

Explanation of the Request: The funding will be used to construct the trail connecting Blue Ridge Elementary School to all the features of Dan River Park.

Project Name: New River Trail Extension Amount: $1,345,520

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the New River Trail Extension in Pulaski County, Virginia.

Project Name: Big Stone Gap to Appalachia Trail Amount: $2,500,098

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for a trail between the towns of Big Stone Gap and Appalachia in Wise County, Virginia. The Big Stone Gap-Appalachia Trail project will construct approximately 1.8 miles of multi-use trail along an abandoned railroad line.

Project Name: Haysi-Breaks Trail Amount: $3,753,875

Explanation of the Request: This funding is for the Haysi-Breaks Trail in Dickenson County, Virginia. The Haysi-Breaks multi-use trail is a multi-phased project.