An efficient transportation system that meets the needs of business is key to a strong regional economy. Fortunately, in Hampton Roads we have observed firsthand the beginning of a successful regional effort to advance many of our region’s strategic transportation projects. Through the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO), our region’s elected officials have identified and prioritized our region’s most important transportation projects. Funding plans and strategies for these projects have been developed by the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC). The majority of the funds being used by HRTAC to advance these projects has come from a regional gas tax and sales and use tax, which only exists in two Virginia regions; Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia.
The regional cooperation championed by the HRTPO and HRTAC has resulted in a revolutionary program of transportation construction in Hampton Roads that will see a significant number of regional road, bridge and tunnel projects completed by 2024. These projects include the widening of I-64 on the Peninsula, the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, the I-64/264 Interchange, the High Rise Bridge and several I-64 Southside improvement projects. The completion of the first six miles of the I-64 Peninsula project is the first exciting realization of this aggressive construction program.
We at the Hampton Roads Chamber fully support these long needed projects and support our region’s efforts to move these projects forward to completion in an efficient and timely manner. However, we realize that as our region moves forward with the largest regional program of transportation construction underway in Virginia it will need the resources to finance it. This is why the Hampton Roads Chamber supports efforts being considered by our General Assembly to adjust the Hampton Roads regional gas tax. When this regional gas tax was established at 2.1 percent in 2013, it was not set to reflect the cost of gas in 2018. This means that as gas prices have declined over the past several years, the revenue produced by this gas tax has decreased accordingly, resulting in a loss of over $20 million per year that could be used by HRTAC to finance large transportation projects such as the HRBT.
The Hampton Roads Chamber fully backs the efforts of the legislature to provide sufficient funding through the Hampton Roads regional gas tax to allow our region to proceed with the completion of our critical transportation projects as rapidly as possible. We commend our Hampton Roads Caucus members who have championed these bills and encourage the Virginia General Assembly to pass these important pieces of legislation.
Our region is on the verge of completing an unprecedented number of transportation projects in the next six years. Let’s continue to stand united and provide our regional leaders the resources to complete these projects which are so critical to the Hampton Roads business community and the region’s quality of life.