Joint Subcommittee to Study Funding Unfunded Transportation Projects in Hampton Roads
July 25, 2001, Hampton
In opening remarks, Chairman Williams described in broad terms his conviction that, in order to safeguard the region's air quality and the prosperity, mobility, and quality of life of its citizens, it was essential that a way be found to fund and build a variety of transportation projects for which no present source of funding has been identified. He emphasized that the present study would need to be broad in scope and could not confine itself to the Third Crossing Project and the U.S. Route 460 Improvement Project alone.
Hampton Roads Planning District Commission
Additional details in support of Chairman Williams' observations were supplied by the deputy director for transportation of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, who told the subcommittee that in 1995, 318 lane-miles of the interstate highways, expressways, and major and minor arterial highways in Hampton Roads experienced serious traffic congestion. Without the completion of additional transportation projectsbeyond those contemplated by existing construction plansthe number of congested lane miles in the region would rise to 869 by 2015. He explained that not only more construction, but more funds to pay for that construction would be required. While the region presently receives approximately $250 million per year for transportation construction projects, $375 million per year would be needed to fund projects in annual construction plans for the next 20 years, and $825 million per year would be needed to meet all the regional transportation construction needs for the next two decades.
Along with other transportation needs, the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (the region's metropolitan planning organization) has endorsed and places particular emphasis on a package of six "high priority" transportation projects:
The total cost of these projects is $3.2 billion, and current levels of funding are inadequate to address even existing levels of highway congestion.
Hampton Roads Partnership
The economic impact of traffic congestion in Hampton Roads was discussed by the president and CEO of the Hampton Roads Partnership, who explained the critical role played by a modern, adequate, and efficient transportation network in any region's economic development strategy. Lack of such a transportation network, he argued, has already cost Hampton Roads jobs, reduced the income of its citizens in comparison that for the United States or the Commonwealth as a whole, and frustrated efforts to bring "high tech" jobs to the region. Lack of such a transportation network (or even the resources with which to construct one) is not only undermining personal income, but is also contributing to declining air quality, increasing frequency of "road rage," and a general erosion of the quality of life in Hampton Roads. The consequences of failing to "step up to this challenge," he concluded, will be more congestion, more air pollution, fewer jobs, lower (relative) annual incomes, and a continuing downward spiral for the economy and quality of life of the whole region. He urged members of the General Assembly to take the legislative steps to provide the financial resources necessary to meet the region's transportation needs identified in the Planning Commission's 20-year transportation plan, with particular emphasis on the six top-priority projects.
The joint subcommittee met at the Virginia Beach Public Library on Tuesday, August 28. The major focus of that meeting was a presentation by the executive director of Hampton Roads Transit (and a member of the joint subcommittee), who provided additional detail on the region's rail and mass transit needs, plans to meet those needs, and the costs of carrying out those plans.