The Hampton Roads Chamber Board and Trustees held their quarterly meeting on October 10th. The agenda for the meeting was focused on transportation, transit and progress updates on the many improvement projects throughout Hampton Roads. The Board was honored to welcome Virginia Secretary of Transportation, Shannon Valentine.
“We have learned a lot of lessons and made Virginia a leader in public private partnership,” Valentine said. “Being able to deliver excellence, embracing innovation, and waking up every day and thinking of how we can better serve our businesses. We make sure commerce around the world knows that Virginia is open for business.” Valentine detailed some of the major interstate projects including the two phases of the High Rise Bridge renovations in Chesapeake and the widening of the I-64 corridor.
John Reinhart, CEO and Executive Director of The Port of Virginia provided an update on the ‘Wider, Deeper, Safer’ effort. The Hampton Roads Chamber works year round as an Impactful Advocate on legislative issues that matter to the business community. The progress made with The Port of Virginia is an example of such advocacy. “We are on the path to finishing the dredging to 56’ in the summer of 2020. The only reason we could do this so fast, is with the support of the Commonwealth. The Federal Government came through and that will help us,” said Reinhart.
Valentine said, “We are more deliberately tying transportation decisions to economic development. It could not be more evident than what is happening here in Hampton Roads with 155 international businesses and the most amazing port,” Valentine said.
Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) Expansion Project Director, James Utterback provided an extensive overview of the HRBT project which will include 10 miles of interstate widening and 4 new lanes across the water. “We’ve come a long way on a very large project and the design concept has moved to a public hearing stage. Everything we do is on both sides of the span with meetings in both Norfolk and Hampton open to the public,” Utterback said. “This has been a cooperative effort with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC). We have set a completion date of 2025 with a not to exceed contract at $3.1 billion.”
Valentine added, “We want to identify what the risks are that the region will face and mitigate and manage those risks to create the best value for this region.”
HRTAC Executive Director, Kevin Page discussed how to continue moving the region forward in terms of transportation. Another Chamber backed legislative priority was supporting a floor for the gas tax. “This was a real game-changer for us during this legislative session. With the gas floor we can gain revenue with interest and investment,” Page said. He detailed improvements with the 264 interchange at Witchduck Rd, the 460/58/13 project and the Bowers Hill improvements. “We are celebrating these projects being delivered and we anticipate celebrating the I-64 Peninsula widening 21 miles by 2021. It’s good as a region that we are thinking more and more about our projects and the expansion of the HRBT gives us the ability to move forward. The region as a whole needs to weigh in on the tolling network,” Page said.
Valentine explained, “The toll revenue that is being collected must go back to the community. When it comes to this region, you would be the one creating the opportunities. We would respect the decisions and priorities that you bring forward.” With the advances in ride share programs and the near ubiquitous use of Uber and Lyft in the Northern Virginia region, Valentine encouraged the group to think broadly about the future of transportation. “The transit world is completely reforming. We are going to demonstrate the value of transit in our regions but we hope we can create for you the value of transit. When this region sees the innovative things that are taking place, it would be the choice of the region to create a business plan. Transit is changing like the way the United States Postal Service is changing, it’s becoming much more like Fed-Ex and UPS with targeted effective customer service,” Valentine said.
The celebration of the completed projects, successful legislative initiatives and the anticipation of an improved crossing, will indeed move the region forward.