Moving Goods

What is it all this buzz about transportation?  What does it mean to each of us? The VA and Hampton Roads Transportation condition is our own "fiscal cliff", but in this case, it's a "transportation cliff" of roads, bridges, rails and economic mobility.  Our state and region needs to achieve an impactful and sustainable financial solution. Thankfully, there are some good ideas being brought forward. Is Hampton Roads coordinated on our response?  Are our elected officials realizing that doing nothing is unacceptable?  Does our citizenry realize that doing nothing is unacceptable?  Does everyone realize that the money has to come from somewhere and be applied thoughtfully toward a solution?

Business, military, community groups, elected officials and citizens all need to converge on a common position (at least at a high level).

Future of Hampton Roads recommends that several if not all of these groups and our citizens unite on the common cause of establishing a realistic and sustainable transportation fund for Virginia.

Perhaps no issue has been more discussed in Hampton Roads in recent years than regional multi-modal transportation system deficiencies and how to generate sufficient funds to meet the region's needs for maintenance and upgrading of the infrastructure.

Transportation in Virginia and particularly Hampton Roads is an exceptionally complex topic that is managed, per federal mandate, primarily by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) where the regional transportation planning and programming decisions are made, yet also requiring input from a myriad of disciplines and supported either directly or indirectly by numerous organizations.  All will need to work together to reach a consensus that citizens will accept so that these shortfalls can be addressed before our transportation problems become any more critical.

Wikipedia's article on Transportation in Hampton Roads Click Here is an accurate description of our challenges.  An excerpt:

"In modern times, the region has faced increasing transportation challenges as it has become largely urbanized, with additional traffic needs. In the 21st century, the conflicts between traffic on vital waterways and land-based travel continue to present the area's leaders with extraordinary transportation challenges, both for additional capacity, and as the existing infrastructure, much of it originally built with toll revenues, has aged without an adequate source of funding to repair or build replacements."

And in a study titled "Transportation and Economic Development" Click Here authors Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue and Dr. Theo Notteboom provide a clear perspective on the importance of transportation systems to regional economic success. They write:

"Like many economic activities that are intensive in infrastructures, the transport sector is an important component of the economy impacting on development and the welfare of populations. When transport systems are efficient, they provide economic and social opportunities and benefits that result in positive multipliers effects such as better accessibility to markets, employment and additional investments. When transport systems are deficient in terms of capacity or reliability, they can have an economic cost such as reduced or missed opportunities. Efficient transportation reduces costs, while inefficient transportation increases costs. The impacts of transportation are not always intended, and can have unforeseen or unintended consequences such as congestion. Transport also carries an important social and environmental load, which cannot be neglected."

Hampton Roads, We Are Making Progress But There Is More Work to Do

Transportation in Virginia and Hampton Roads is a complex issue which, as noted above is managed primarily by the HRTPO where the regional transportation planning and programming decisions are made, yet also supported either directly or indirectly by a number of organizations.  Bridges, tunnels, roads, rails, ferries and services throughout the region are all the sources of intra and inter-regional mobility which require attention for the good of citizens within Hampton Roads.

Organizations Involved in Addressing Our Transportation Challenges

Starting at the highest level The US Department of Transportation (USDOT) at Click Here covers cars, planes, bikes, motorcycles, public transit, trains, roads, bridges navigable waterways, and more. From their website Click Here "The mission of the Department is serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation system that meets our vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future."

USDOT

For surface transportation, there are three agencies under USDOT, namely:
1) The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) at Click Here
2) The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) at Click Here and;
3) The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) at Click Here

USDOT has mandated the formation of regional metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) to do the work of, and make the regional transportation planning and programming decisions, that will apply to a specifically designated "metropolitan planning area" (usually following the same geography used in describing metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs).  In Hampton Roads, we have a superb and highly professional MPO (called the TPO here in Hampton Roads).  In addition, FHWA and FTA have assigned members to the HRTPO's Board of Directors (they have no vote, but they provide good advice).

These topics cascade to state and local agencies and private groups.

Virginia (as other states do) has a Transportation Secretary, Sean Connaughton Click Here who ensures our Commonwealth has a safe and efficient transportation system to support and improve every Virginian's quality of life.  Agencies that are part of the Transportation Secretariat provide a wide array of products and services including road construction and repairs, rest area maintenance, regulating sea ports, airports and rail, and issuing license plates and driver's licenses.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Click Here is responsible for building, maintaining and operating the state's roads, bridges and tunnels.  And, through the Commonwealth Transportation Board, it provides funding for airports, seaports, rail and public transportation.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation Click Here is there to improve the mobility of people and goods while expanding transportation choices in the Commonwealth. DRPT has three primary areas of activity — Rail, Public Transportation, and Commuter Services.  As a state agency reporting to the Secretary of Transportation, DRPT works closely with VDOT, which is responsible for highways, as well as other transportation agencies responsible for aviation and ports. Each of DRPT's three primary areas of activity (rail, public transportation, and commuter services) focus on the movement of people and goods throughout Virginia.

Hampton Roads Transit Click Here among the preeminent transportation organizations in the nation. HRT sees regional mobility as the cornerstone of economic development and quality of life in Hampton Roads.

  • Bus
  • 51 Fixed Regular Routes, 6 MAX Express Routes, 3 Seasonal VB Wave Routes and 7 Commuter Work Trips.
  • The Tide – Virginia's first light rail system
  • Paddlewheel Ferry – Serving Downtown Norfolk and Olde Towne Portsmouth
  • TRAFFIX – Providing transportation alternatives
  • Paratransit – Service Available for Persons with Disabilities

TRAFFIX Hampton Roads Click Here is a cooperative public service designed to promote and implement transportation alternatives. Staff reports to an advisory board comprised of representatives from each of the area's transportation planning groups: Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO); Hampton Roads Transit (HRT); the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT); the Federal Highway Administration (FHA); the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT); and the localities of Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. TRAFFIX staff are employees of HRT. The program has its own funding source.

The Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) at Click Here is a voluntary organization of 16 local governments established to foster intergovernmental cooperation and to provide support in addressing regional issues as the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).  Hampton Roads MPO has been instrumental in uniting and organizing agencies in the area, which has facilitated the implementation of many regional ITS systems. Hampton Roads MPO has also helped in mainstreaming ITS into the Regions traditional planning process. It collects system-related data that is used to pinpoint problems that can be corrected via ITS or other operations and management improvements.

The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) at Click Here serves as a resource of technical expertise to its member local governments. It provides assistance on local and regional issues pertaining to Economics, Physical and Environmental Planning, Emergency Management, and Transportation. The HRPDC staff also serves as the support staff for the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Planning Organization, which is responsible for transportation planning and decision-making in the region. As a Virginia Planning District, the HRPDC is also the Affiliate Data Center for our region, providing economic, environmental, transportation, census, and other relevant information to businesses, organizations and citizens.

Virginia Beach Next (formerly Light Rail Now) at Click Here is a 501(c)4, not for profit organization. The mission of LRN is the development and execution of a grassroots based campaign to educate and advocate for the extension of a light rail system from Norfolk to Virginia Beach.

Virginians for High Speed Rail at Click Here is a 501(c)3 non-profit coalition of citizens, localities, economic development agencies, community organizations, and businesses that educate and advocate for the improvement and expansion of rail service in Virginia to achieve fast, frequent, and reliable rail service.

Hampton Roads 4 Rail at Click Here is the local Hampton Roads subchapter to Virginian's for High Speed Rail.

The Hampton Roads Public Transportation Alliance (HRPTA) at Click Here was established in 1993 with two main goals: 1) To educate citizens of Hampton Roads about the importance of public transportation and; 2) To secure a dedicated funding source for the maintenance and enhancement of local transportation projects. HRPTA believes that a strong public transportation system is essential to the vitality of our regional economy and will be a key element in helping maintain Hampton Roads' competitiveness, productivity and quality of life.

The Future of Hampton Roads, Inc. at Click Here is a 501(c)3 nonpartisan, apolitical organization that was founded in 1982 by a group of Hampton Roads community leaders who were committed to improving the quality of life for the citizenry of Hampton Roads currently and into the next century.  One of the key focus areas of FHR is that of transportation and toward the goal of improving regional transportation, FHR works with several of the above mentioned groups to ensure that transportation needs are met for the region.

All these groups work on the topic of transportation for our state and region, yet transportation remains one of the more critical issues we face.

Regardless of the several organizations involved, it takes funding to put plans into action.  To that point there is a significant funding challenge that Virginia (including Hampton Roads) faces.  This is the Transportation Cliff we mention.

Transportation Funding Challenges

Another good information source is the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance  Click Here  The Alliance believes the objective must be to secure new, sustainable, dedicated revenues totaling a minimum of $400 million per year for Northern Virginia, $200 million per year for Hampton Roads and $1 billion per year for statewide maintenance and construction.

Current Situation: The 2012 Virginia General Assembly adjourned with no serious progress on transportation funding.

Governor McDonnell and the GOP-controlled House of Delegates proposed a package of initiatives that included increasing the portion of the retail sales tax dedicated to transportation from .5% to .75% over an 8-year period and selling naming rights to  ransportation infrastructure. The evenly split Senate proposed indexing the gas tax to the Producer Price Index for Highway Construction Materials.

The House defeated the Senate proposal, the Senate defeated the House proposal and the session ended the same as the previous 26 sessions with no new long-term transportation funding.

For a description of Governor McDonnell's initial 2012 Omnibus Transportation Funding BillClick Here

For a description of the Senate's initial 2012 proposal, Click Here

During the final budget negotiations, Senate Democrats tried to hold-up the budget until the Governor-House committed to adding $300 million to Dulles Rail Phase 2, a tactic that failed.

Eleven other transportation funding proposals failed. Governor McDonnell now has one year to make good on his pledge to secure significant new long-term transportation funding.

On the plus side HB 599 and SB 531 direct VDOT to evaluate Northern Virginia highway and transit projects on their ability to reduce congestion did become law.

Private Sector Funding Resolution:

In 2011 the Alliance, 27 other Northern Virginia business organizations, the Fairfax and Prince William County Boards of Supervisors, and the Northern Virginia Regional Commission adopted a resolution stating that all funding options should be on the table, that the Commonwealth's transportation funding crisis could not be solved without new dedicated taxes and fees, and that "no new transportation tax" pledges by political candidates are contrary to the Commonwealth's best interests. To read the resolution, Click Here

2011 General Assembly Session:

During the 2011 General Assembly session, the Alliance supported Governor McDonnell's $3.2 billion transportation package. While not the new, reliable, long-term funding Virginia's transportation program needs, the $3.2 billion infusion helps jump start and complete hundreds of delayed projects.

Long-term More Complete Solutions Being Proposed

Senator Watkins Click Here made a very compelling proposal to aiding (not wholly solving) the transportation funding problem.

November 16, 2012 The Daily Press published an article found at Click Here An excerpt:
"RICHMOND - A Virginia General Assembly member has finally stepped forward with a specific proposal to address the state's growing transportation funding crisis.  Sen. John Watkins (R-Midlothian) is shopping around a legislative plan he claims would raise more than $733 million annually for state transportation needs by increasing the wholesale price of gasoline by 5 percent."

Separately and more recently, on 12/29/2012 The Pilot On-Line published an article "Supporters see changed feelings on sales tax used for roads", to read Click Here

What can you do?

Only the Governor and the general Assembly can get Virginia off of this Transportation Cliff. Let your legislator know what your expectations are about a long-term, realistic transportation solution.  Go to the Virginia General Assembly Click Here to find out what's going on and whom to contact.VA Gen Assy

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