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and How We Got Here Southeastern Virginia has been defined throughout history – and even before – by the centrality of its deep waters. Every base industry in the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Williamsburg, VA-NC MSA as of 2005 –shipping, tourism, shipbuilding and repair, logistics, food processing, and especially defense – is ultimately a product of the waterways that surround and penetrate the entire region.1 Indeed, its harbor, Hampton Roads, has given its name to the region at large. Even this downplays the role of its surrounding watersheds: the bounty of shellfish that gave the Chesapeake Bay its name; the vital role of the Elizabeth and James rivers in linking America to Europe since 1607; and the region’s paramount importance in the naval defense of the United States today. However, since the beginning of its industrialization, the relationship of Hampton Roads to its waterways has been in flux. The first generations of steam technologies first complemented and then competed against the dominance of water transport throughout the region in the 19th century with increasing success, allowing for the creation of a rail network circumnavigating Norfolk and the establishment of Norfolk Southern as a major logistical player in the Mid-Atlantic region. The advent of rail allowed for the development of streetcar suburbs and the rapid development of industrial areas in Newport News and South Norfolk, but the pervasiveness of the harbor was increasingly as much of a hindrance to expansion as it was a benefit – a pattern that was exacerbated with the introduction of the automobile, wherein the ferries linking the communities surrounding the harbor, formerly an expediency and a convenience, became a bottleneck. As expensive bridge and tunnel systems were constructed to replace ferry services, beginning with the James River Bridge in 1928 and reaching a crescendo in the 1950s and early 1960s with the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels and the Hampton Roads and Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnels2, their capacities were quickly exhausted – as were the second wave of additional bridges and tunnels designed
Agarwal, Vinod, et al. The State of the Hampton Roads Economy Midway Through The Decade. Norfolk, VA: Old Dominion University Press, 2005. 2 Kozel, Scott M. “Roads To The Future”. Website: http://www.roadstothefuture.com/Bridge_Tunnels_VA.html
to complement them from the 1970s into the 1990s3. Compounding this problem was the rapid erosion of regional transit capacity: beginning nearly simultaneously with bridge-tunnel construction, streetcar networks in place since Reconstruction were replaced by private and public-private bus systems, with the last Norfolk streetcar ceasing operation in the summer of 1948. With the evaporation of new-start highway funds by 1999, the prospect of further bridge construction in the Hampton Roads area was rather daunting: the centerpiece of the failed $7.7 billion 2003 transportation tax levy referendum was a proposed “third crossing” of Hampton Roads, with an estimated price tag of $3.2 billion4. The man-hour costs incurred in either transportation scenario, however, are similarly dear: …Even if the third crossing is built, demand will exceed the capacity of the three bridge-tunnels by 2015…. One of the options is to do nothing. But [transportation consultant Philip A. Shucet] warned that if nothing is done, traffic at the [HRBT] will be stalled for 15 minutes or more, 21 times a day. “Effectively that's a congested period that lasts 24 hours a day,” he said.5 Similar forecasts have been issued for other vital crossings in the region. For example, the beleaguered Midtown Tunnel, susceptible to swamping as during Hurricane Isabel in 2003, has long since exceeded its capacity – especially with the completion of the Pinners Point Interchange, where now five lanes of traffic (including that from a new freeway pouring out of rapidly sprawling northern Suffolk) funnel into one. The I-64 High Rise Bridge across the southern Elizabeth River is predicted to be overwhelmed by suburban growth in Suffolk and Chesapeake, to say nothing of its capacity to replace the many other dilapidated and increasingly irreparable bridges spanning the Southern Branch and the Intracoastal
A caveat: this excepts the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. Virginia Department of Transportation. Third Hampton Roads Crossing Conceptual Proposal. Arlington, VA: Fluor Corporation of Virginia, 2004. 5 Messina, Debbie. “Regional Planners Look At Ways To Alleviate Traffic Congestion”. Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, April 17, 1997: B5.
Waterway. 6 7 On the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, building the necessary set of tubes to support estimated cargo traffic on the new parallel span by 2014 is between $470 and $770 million, thought to lie beyond the scope of its ability to collect revenue – this with tolls of $17 to $24 for a round trip – and therefore out of the question.8 Other logistical issues on the shore compound these in bringing the Hampton Roads area closer to gridlock. The cities of Norfolk and Virginia Beach have concluded that mass transit investment is necessary to facilitate massive tourist and commuter traffic; however, due to a lack of communication and political trust, these neighbors are in the process of building separate and incompatible mass transit systems, with Norfolk developing a light-rail starter line to the Virginia Beach border – mostly along an unused Norfolk Southern short-line track and some downtown streets – and Virginia Beach pursuing rapid-busing and BRT along the oceanfront and to its Pembroke Town Center redevelopment, with a possible but unfunded expansion westward to Norfolk. Neither of these proposals, however, address traffic to and from the various military installations that create significant logistical difficulties. There are currently dedicated, reversible HOV lanes between Norfolk Naval Base and Pembroke, with exits toward the southern suburbs of Kempsville and Greenbrier; these, however, carry an average of 1.4 to 1.6 passengers per vehicle while an estimated 83% of Hampton Roads commuters travel alone to work.9 This combination of solo driving and rampant HOV deadheading may be in part due to Naval Station Norfolk’s extensive free parking lots and other subsidies to drivers, a situation that is unlikely to change in the nearterm. Meanwhile, the current VMT statistics estimate HOV throughput at approximately 30% of capacity, prompting arguments to convert the reversible lanes to HOT operation.10 Improvements are also expected for Interstate 64 between Newport News and Richmond – an attempt to solve the “Yorktown Strangler” bottleneck in which seven lanes of westbound traffic funnel into
Stoughton, Stephanie. “Gilmerton Bridge Rated Region’s Worst”. Portsmouth Current, July 31, 1994: p. 14. 7 Rodrigues, Janette. “Jordan Bridge Closed After Power Cable Breaks Free.” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, November 30, 2006: B1. 8 Miller, Kevin G., et al. Commonwealth of Virginia. Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission. The Future of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Richmond, VA: JLARC, 2003. 9 Holden, Tom. “Study Says 83% Prefer To Brave Rush Hour Alone”. Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, January 18, 2007: B2. 10 Messina, Debbie. “Would You Pay To Go Solo On HOV?” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, October 16, 1997: B1.
two – as well as the conversion underway of US 460 to freeway standards, primarily to facilitate shipping to and from the region as well as serving commuters in the rapidly growing western exurbs. Meanwhile, Virginia Beach is faced with several issues of its own regarding congestion and land-use planning. Interstate 264 has been widened and lane widths have been decreased to the point that many sections fall short of federal Interstate standards and are considered treacherous. In response, Virginia Beach is considering reinstituting tolls on its section of Interstate 264 to pay for major improvements to several dangerous interchanges.11 Concurrently, the cities of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach have been collaborating in the development of the Southeastern Parkway and Greenbelt, a now public-private expressway project. Similar in design to Va. 288, the Southeastern Parkway and Greenbelt is planned to give commuters a direct route from Va. 168 in Chesapeake to Laskin Road near the Virginia Beach oceanfront, bypassing Norfolk and I-264. While the city of Chesapeake has attempted to avoid controversy by asserting that its section of the Parkway is designed with open space and environmental quality in mind,12 it is actually Virginia Beach’s portion (and its extreme proximity to NAS Oceana) that causes the most alarm. The easternmost section of the Parkway, in fact, is located within the airbase property, with another 3-milelong leg snugly situated in one of the largest remaining flanks of undeveloped land around the base.13 Beyond this, another leg skirts Fentress airfield, routinely used for training operations. Through the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, the Department of Defense has expressed grave concern over the continuing encroachment of development upon these two airbases, which they say threatens continued operations in the region.14 Virginia Beach denies any wrongdoing in this15 and claims to be addressing the Pentagon’s concerns,16 but routinely flouts its own zoning recommendations, continuing to
Holden, Tom. “Would You Pay To Fix Interstate 264?” Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, January 8, 2007: B1. 12 PBConsult, Inc. Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. Planning Departments. ChesapeakeVirginia Beach Joint Land Use Study. Chesapeake, VA: Parsons Brinckerhoff, 2001. 13 Holden, Tom. “Southeastern Parkway: Long Way To Go For Shortcut”. Norfolk VirginianPilot, December 18, 2006: B1. 14 United States. Department of Defense. Commission for Base Realignment and Closure. Commission Recommendations. Washington: GPO, 2005. 15 City of Virginia Beach. City Council. The Truth About Encroachment Around Oceana. Virginia Beach: City of Virginia Beach, 2005. 16 Taylor, Marisa. “Oberndorf Touts Beach’s Efforts To Keep Jet Base”. Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, March 16, 2006: B1.
approve major developments within the Oceana crash and noise-abatement zones and beyond its urban growth boundary (popularly called the Green Line). Already there exist a shopping mall, major warehousing facilities, factories, office complexes and thousands of homes and condominiums within the crash zone of Oceana’s runways.17 Part II: Best Practices, or Beyond Hampton Roads These and other conventional solutions for Hampton Roads’ transportation woes are likely to far exceed the $7.7 billion price tag at which voters balked in 2003. However, the cost of inaction in terms is considerably greater in terms of lost productivity and economic development. Let us then consider an alternative set of proposals for improving Hampton Roads’ transportation infrastructure with a focus on rapid implementation and long-term efficacy, beginning with an element that goes without saying, yet has somehow been frequently neglected – the harbor. To see how southeastern Virginia waterways are underutilized for passenger use, we may consider a remarkably similar water-bound metropolitan area – Sydney, Australia, another historical “first region” in its own right. Obviously no Virginia city could claim to be the economic center of the South Pacific. However, like Hampton Roads, Sydney benefits from the logistical advantages of a deep and pervasive natural harbor in the near-geographic center of Australia’s eastern seaboard. Sydney is also a rather sprawling metropolis, like most large Australasian or North American cities, with a population density of 345.7/km2.18 Yet Sydney recently ranked 7th best metropolitan area worldwide in terms of quality of life by a Mercer Human Resources survey,19 has managed much of its growth, and its transportation issues, while as considerable as those of any city, are not considered to be a crisis. Why is this? For one, Sydney began developing a public transportation infrastructure very early in its history, which allowed planned development far in advance of expected growth. One important element of this infrastructure is its public passenger ferry system. Never discontinued in 135 years, the service has since
Glass, Jon W. “Hemming In Oceana: A Special Report”. Norfolk Virginian-Pilot, September 12, 2004: A1. 18 The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 2007. New York: World Almanac Books, 2006. 19 Parakatil, Slagin, et al. Mercer Human Resource Consulting Worldwide Quality of Living Survey 2007. Geneva: Mercer Human Resources, 2007.
been streamlined and expanded to cover much of the 21 square miles of Sydney Harbor and navigable stretches of the Parramatta River.20 Farebox recovery rates hover around 50%, comparable to other modes of public transportation in the United States, as does the percentage of commuter passengers visà-vis leisure travelers. Sydney Ferries operates on time 98.9% of the time, connecting many of the region’s inner suburbs up to 10 miles away within 15 minutes to an hour of each readily-delineated route’s departure from the CBD, approximately once every 20 minutes. This service is provided at a taxpayer cost of $48.7 million AUD, or $39 million USD.21 There is, however, a movement underway to improve the performance of Sydney Ferries, if only because Sydney’s other transit systems have realized even higher efficiencies. The 2003 ministerial Parry Inquiry found that CityRail, the commuter rail network serving metropolitan New South Wales, achieves an average farebox recovery of approximately 75%.22 This would seem surprising for a metropolitan area of such low density. However, some of CityRail’s operational elements may account for this: for one, the CityRail network effectively operates as a hybrid system, providing a heavy-rail level of service within the urban core while providing suburban commuter service beyond it. This flexibility is similar to urban rail operations throughout Australia, allowing some privately-managed operation and realizing greater public and economic efficiencies. Furthermore, while Australian metropolitan areas enjoy relatively low densities, they have also been developed in a more traditional fashion since their inception, emulating British design traditions which have mitigated the impacts of suburban sprawl. This is in part facilitated by Australia’s “fair-go” tradition of social democratic planning: In Australia, planning values and those of the Australian Settlement shaped the thinking of the wartime Labor government and occasionally became explicit in the writings of far-sighted reformers… [who] talk about reconstruction, meaning: social security for all, the absence of poverty and unemployment, equality of opportunity, better housing and no slums…. [L.H.]
Bryson, Bill. “Sydney”. National Geographic August 2000: 2-31. SydneyFerries.info. Sydney Ferries Corporation. March 2007. <http://www.sydneyferries.info> 22 Parry, Stephen, et al. New South Wales. Ministry of Transport. Ministerial Inquiry into Sustainable Transport. Sydney: Ministry of Transport, 2003.
Luscombe wanted nothing less than a comprehensive national planning program that would repair the environmental and social damage caused by economic depression, world war and unfettered markets. By embarking on comprehensive economic and spatial planning, Australia would usher in ‘a new dawn’ of natural abundance and shared prosperity. Decades later, Hugh Stretton echoed these sentiments – spatial planning, for him, was the foundation of social democratic improvement. Stretton explicitly appealed to Rawlsian philosophy in identifying the functions of government that urban planning should serve. He observed that ‘city planning can’t really be separated from general economic policy’ (1970).23 This is not to say that Sydney is not in certain ways a dysfunctional city. Like much of Hampton Roads, the greater Sydney region is stratified into rich and poor neighborhoods by relative proximity to the waterfront, something which reveals itself in the demographics of Sydney ferry passengers, to say nothing of the morass of political and real-estate dealings behind the recent Olympic Village projects and later redevelopment.24 However, Sydney has come a long way in realizing its potential and suggesting ways out of remarkably similar urban crisis situations. Another geopolitically similar city, Vancouver, not only has a much more similar population profile (with only half a million more people than Hampton Roads, and sharing a significant recent influx of Asian immigration) but scores even higher on the Mercer survey (ranking third),25 is considerably more hemmed in by its deep-water harbor (not to mention the flanking Coast Mountains), and remains Canada’s dominant Pacific port. (Unlike Hampton Roads, Vancouver is also a major center of television production. Perhaps we can’t have everything.)26
Gleeson, Brendan, and Nicholas Low. Australian Urban Planning: New Challenges, New Agendas. St. Leonards, NSW, Australia: Allen & Unwin, 2000. 24 Lenskyj, Helen Jefferson. The Best Olympics ever? : Social Impacts of Sydney 2000. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2002. 25 Parakatil, Slagin, et al. 26 Vancouver Economic Development: Key Sectors. Vancouver Economic Development Commission. November 2006. <http://www.vancouvereconomic.com/key_sectors/default.htm>
Vancouverites have a long tradition of activism and public participation in the development and planning process, as the 1967 freeway revolts attest: A tunnel under Burrard Inlet [i.e. Vancouver Harbour] was discussed on the basis that a crossing of a federal waterway might be paid for by the federal government. An east-west freeway would be feasible because Canadian Pacific would grant rights-of-way in order to access its own extensive redevelopment sites in the area.... This would link with a north-south freeway on Main Street that would run around the northern edge of downtown, along the waterfront…. When these clandestine plans were presented in June 1967 to council as “the Vancouver transportation study”, angry citizens convened public meetings citywide. Business owners in Chinatown-Strathcona… were most vociferous against the multi-lane freeways cutting through their neighbourhood (Hasson and Ley 1994: 117-21)…. [Eventually] development supporters such as the Downtown Business Association and the Vancouver Board of Trade began to question city planning and development practices. In the end, only the Vancouver Planning Commission supported the freeway proposals. The commission chair resigned in November 1967 after a second public meeting brought mass opposition to the freeways.27 The eventual result of this freeway revolt was significant reinvestment in public transit, including expanded ferry service (SeaBus provides 15-minute turnaround JetCat service across Burrard Inlet), commuter rail service (West Coast Express), an automated LRT system (SkyTrain), and the B-Line, which has been upheld as an example of excellence in rapid busing by the Federal Transit
Punter, John. The Vancouver Achievement : Urban Planning And Design. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2003.
Administration.28 29 All of these as well as road projects are managed by TransLink, the fully integrated Greater Vancouver transportation oversight agency.30 SkyTrain is particularly notable as an automated LRT system, with operations completely gradeseparated throughout Greater Vancouver, primarily along former streetcar rights-of-way. Having first opened to serve the 1986 World’s Fair, SkyTrain employs linear induction technology to further improve efficiency in addition to the labor cost savings realized by automation. The system was further expanded in 2000, with two new lines under construction to serve the airport and Olympic sites by 2009 and the northwestern suburb of Coquitlam by 2011.31 The result of this, to be blunt, is a heavy-rail level of service at light-rail costs – a public savings realized in a high level of service at tax rates comparable to, or significantly lower than, many regions elsewhere in Canada or the northwestern United States.32 While housing prices remain alarmingly high (as they do in much of the rest of the Pacific northwest), this broad commitment to public value and social welfare has arguably contributed much to Vancouver’s high quality-of-life rating and aided in its establishment as a cost-competitive, dynamic, creative port region. San Diego, home of the bulk of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, is another port region worthy of note – remarkably similar again to Hampton Roads, especially in terms of its relationship with the Navy and other defense interests. However, it can be argued that metropolitan San Diego has a better land-use relationship with its military bases, knowing when a more aggressive or laissez-faire approach would be appropriate. For example, the San Diego-Coronado Bridge was constructed in 1967 at a height that allows even the tallest aircraft carriers to pass underneath, with planned retrofits allowing for even greater
Diaz, Roderick B., et al. United States. Federal Transit Administration. Office of Research, Demonstration, and Innovation. Characteristics of Bus Rapid Transit for Decision-Making. Washington: GPO, 2004. 29 Mills, Brian. British Columbia. Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority. Bus Rapid Transit in Vancouver: A Review of Experience. Burnaby, BC: TransLink, 2003. 30 TransLink – The Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority. Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority. March 2007. <http://www.translink.bc.ca/> 31 British Columbia. Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority. 2005-2007 Three-Year Plan and Ten-Year Outlook. Burnaby, BC: TransLink, 2004. 32 Vancouver Economic Development Commission.
clearance.33 Whereas Hampton Roads has shied away from a pure bridge lest municipalities and VDOT incur the wrath of station commanders and port authorities, this has realized significant cost savings over a tunneling approach while minimally impacting normal surface-warfare operations. Similarly, the San Diego region has benefited from a co-operative approach between developers and the military, with MCAS Miramar (famous for its fighter operations from Top Gun and other popular culture) given “breathing room” to expand operations after several airbases in nearby Orange County were closed or significantly downsized, primarily due to suburban encroachment; meanwhile, only 87 Miramar positions were rationalized during the 2005 BRAC assessment.34 San Diegans also seem able to collectively intuit the land-use needs of the military, having rejected the development of a section of Miramar as a commercial airport in a 2006 referendum.35 Likewise, the Navy has played a significant and sensitive role in the redevelopment of realigned and closed bases in the region, with the former Navy Broadway Complex a major (if controversial) element in San Diego’s waterfront revitalization program.36 Another notable element of San Diego’s transportation management regime is its Trolley. The original new-start LRT system in the United States, the San Diego Trolley was begun as a public-private project in conjunction with what is now BNSF Corporation. (San Diego Trolley, Inc. is now a subsidiary of the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System.) While implementation of LRT service was already significantly less expensive than the alternative $1.5 billion heavy-rail proposal,37 the freak incidence of Tropical Storm Kathleen required the abandonment of a Union Pacific trunk line, allowing even more cost savings through conversion of the line to shared LRT and short-line operation. Thus the initial Blue Line was constructed between downtown San Diego and the Mexican border at San Ysidro for an
Caltrans Toll Bridge: San Diego-Coronado Bridge. Caltrans, i.e. California Department of Transportation. February 1999. <http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/esc/tollbridge/Coronado/Coronado.html> 34 San Diego Facilities: Miramar Marine Corps Air Station. GlobalSecurity.org. August 8, 2005. <http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/miramar.htm> 35 Ristine, Jeff. “Vigorous ‘No’ For Miramar Airport”. San Diego Union-Tribune, December 11, 2006: A1. 36 City of San Diego. Centre City Development Corporation. Downtown San Diego - The Western Waterfront: Northern Embarcadero Visionary Plan. San Diego, Calif.: CCDC, August 2006. 37 San Diego County. Metropolitan Transit Development Board (i.e. Metropolitan Transit System). Guideway Planning Project Final Report. San Diego, Calif: MTDB, 1976.
astonishingly scant $86 million.38 As a result, the San Diego Trolley is not only the fourth-most-traveled LRT line in the United States but also enjoys excellent farebox recovery, frequently meeting or even exceeding operating costs.39 This has encouraged SDTI to further expand service in the San Diego area. Part III: Alternative Policy Proposals, or Changing Tack in Hampton Roads To wit, Hampton Roads can and should do much better. However, this should not discount the accomplishments made by individual municipalities in the region. Norfolk, for example, has made great strides in land-use planning under the watchful eyes of Daun Hester and Ray Gindroz, and Virginia Beach should be lauded for its role in planning a rapid busing network – or even considering mass transit at all, given its history as an accessory to heedless development despite its attempts at a UGB. And regional cooperation with VDOT has been essential in the recent implementation of local incidence management and intelligent transportation systems. However, the experiences of Sydney, Vancouver, and San Diego should serve as examples of how improved efficiency, automation, land management, and cooperation between public, private, and military agencies can foster better transportation in Hampton Roads. Let us momentarily re-examine the 2003 transportation referendum and its $7.7 billion tax levy, or rather, its individual parts: • • The “Third Crossing” of Hampton Roads (estimated cost: $3.1 billion)
Extension of the Martin Luther King Freeway and a second Midtown Tunnel tube (estimated cost: $910 million)
Southeastern Parkway and Greenbelt (estimated cost: $1.4 billion)
Upgrade of US 460 to federal Interstate standards in western Tidewater (estimated cost: $1.0 billion)
San Diego County. Metropolitan Transit System. Fact Sheet: San Diego Trolley, Inc. San Diego, Calif: MTS, 2005. 39 American Public Transit Association. APTA Transit Ridership Report. Washington: APTA, 2007.
I-64 widening in Newport News, James City County, and York County (estimated cost: $1.47 billion)
Unspecified transit improvements: $200 million
Here we see not only approximately 2% of funds dedicated to transit, but over $4.5 billion (half of the estimated cost of the projects) dedicated to the Third Crossing and Southeastern Parkway, both of these controversial and arguably unnecessary projects. Beyond this, VDOT claims to have procured funding for U.S. 460 improvements from outside sources, so the $1 billion dedicated to this project after inflation may be rendered moot. We therefore have a hypothetical $5.5 billion to reallocate to alternative projects, allowing us to create an alternative $7.7 billion proposal (of which nearly a quarter is spent on transit), as follows: • Third reversible high-occupancy/toll tube on Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (estimated cost: $1.1 billion) • Extension of the Martin Luther King Freeway and a second Midtown Tunnel tube (estimated cost: $910 million)
Automated mass transit line between Naval Station Norfolk and Virginia Beach resort area via downtown Norfolk and Pembroke Town Center (estimated cost: $1.2 billion)
Improved ferry, hovercraft and water-taxi service across Hampton Roads (estimated initial costs: $250 million)
Urban-suburban DMU passenger rail service on Peninsula (estimated cost: $200 million)
I-64 widening between Jefferson Avenue in Newport News and Richmond International Airport (estimated cost: $2.5 billion)
Conversion of I-64 HOV lanes to busway and HOT lanes (estimated cost: $40 million)
Improvements to Interstate 264 in Virginia Beach (estimated cost: $250 million)
Improvements to intercity rail, introduction of Norfolk-Suffolk-Petersburg-Richmond highspeed rail service (estimated cost: $225 million)
Feasibility studies for: future rail improvements, Oceana redevelopment, I-44 proposal to North Carolina border, etc. (estimated cost: $35 million)
Transportation trust fund (approximately $1 billion)
To begin, providing a reversible third tube on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, designated High Occupancy/Toll lanes for commuters and designed with maximum trucking clearances, would likely provide significantly more relief than the current “Third Crossing” proposal (which itself creates a new bottleneck at the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel) at the significantly lower estimated cost of $1.1 billion, realizing a savings of untold man-hours and over $2 billion. Improvements at the Martin Luther King Freeway and Midtown Tunnel are imperative and congestion at the Pinners Point interchange demands immediate address. This will further improve the efficiency of the Monitor-Merrimac as well as improvements to the HRBT and the 264/58/44 corridor. (Beyond this, the end of Jesse Helms’ congressional career may allow the re-evaluation of the aborted Interstate 44 project between Raleigh and Hampton Roads.) Automation would significantly improve capital costs for rail transit, both during construction (allowing prefabrication to pre-empt in situ cost overruns) and during the operation phase. Linearinduction technologies such as those employed by SkyTrain would be a good example, as would certain (but most certainly not all!) monorail technologies, such as those open-sourced Alweg designs employed to great effect in east Asia by Hitachi (in Osaka, Okinawa, Singapore and Tokyo) and Monorail Malaysia (in Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya), respectively.40 This is not to underestimate the long-term cost savings
Falkenbury, Richard, et al. "ETC Board and Staff Reviews Monorail Malaysia System." Elevated Transportation Company. 11 Jan 2002. Seattle Monorail Transit Project. <http://archives.elevated.org/home/othermonorails.shtm>
that could be achieved by managed transit-oriented development around stations, not least in terms of rent accrued to transit agencies or public-private concessionaries. Such managed TOD would also significantly improve costs and help to subsidize any expanded ferry system in Hampton Roads. In addition to traditional ferry operations serving waterfront suburban areas of Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and other jurisdictions, the provision of hovercraft or foil services between Norfolk, Hampton, Cape Charles, the Chicks Beach region of Virginia Beach, and possibly Yorktown or Gloucester would benefit not only from significant time savings vs. HRBT congestion, but also direct cost savings, assuming any ticket to Cape Charles undercuts the $12 one-way, $17 round-trip cost of traveling on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. This may also help to foster responsible and sustainable transit-oriented development in Cape Charles and Northampton County, both Eastern Shore communities starved for income and tempted by unscrupulous economic development proposals. Part of a mature planning policy is the admission of defeat and the capability of reinventing old systems as something vital and invigorating. One such example would be the rededication of I-64’s reversible lanes as a busway, allowing for additional use as HOT lanes. The introduction of continuous rapid busing between Virginia Beach and Naval Station Norfolk would do a great deal to improve transit ridership among the military community, if past experience in San Diego, Vancouver, and Ottawa is an indication. Beyond this, the payment of FLAG officers in Bay Colony to use the “Lexus Lane” would realize effective congestion pricing that could subsidize BRT service for petty officers in Kempsville. Combined with a “zipper lane” and other concurrent improvements to I-264, this will quickly fill the most immediate hole in Hampton Roads’ transit policy – inadequate service to Naval Base Norfolk –and would also provide an excellent stopgap transit service until LRT service can be completed between Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Another important admission of failure portends to the fate of NAS Oceana. Both Chesapeake and moreover Virginia Beach must come to the understanding that the patience of Oceana, BRAC, and the Pentagon with their poor land use decisions (and by extension, utter disregard for the requirements of the air station’s regular and continued operation) is finite. The indifference of the city governments to sprawl arguably makes them accessories to dereliction. If there are any corrective actions Virginia Beach
and the regional leadership may wish to take to prevent the relocation of the base, however substantial, that is their right and immediate responsibility. Regardless, it is vitally important that Virginia Beach and other localities and regional leaders should begin to plan for the base’s eventual closure. However ghoulish, one immediate possibility for its reuse is as an international airport, especially given its extensive runways, cargo space, and proximity to rail connections, major thoroughfares, population centers, and destinations (especially I-264, with the resort area and Pembroke Town Center both within 10 minutes’ drive). Another possibility, concurrently or otherwise, is the rehabilitation of the operations section of the base as a defense technology park, not unlike the expanding simulations center in northern Suffolk. In conclusion, we recall that, given due reconsideration of transportation priorities and after having reevaluated two major projects, the transportation referendum could be redesigned to provide four additional projects and still leave us with approximately $1 billion to apply as we wished. This underscores a vital point: regional opposition to the 2003 referendum came from a broad coalition of interests – including both environmentalists angry at the referendum’s emphasis on sprawl-enabling road projects and fiscal conservatives concerned about the overarching wastefulness of such projects as the “Third Crossing” proposal. This is to say that the public may later support other, more ecologically sensitive and economically sound plans. To wit, this proposal is an attempt at precisely that. Conclusion and Summary In conclusion, the failure of the 2002 Hampton Roads transportation referendum was in equal parts a tax revolt and a freeway revolt. Southeastern Virginia is a complex region whose leadership routinely underestimates and undervalues its ability to provide and plan for a comprehensive regional transportation future – as well as the area’s economic and cultural destiny. By looking to other similarly constrained but dynamic port regions – Sydney, Vancouver, and San Diego were provided as examples – we can adapt their transportation and planning solutions to the unique needs of our own complex problems. Underlying these many disparate solutions is a need to find efficiencies and promote cooperation in order to restore and fulfill the public trust.
But to begin to realize this trust, we must first face the public and ask in tangible ways to renew it through military and community cooperation and truly bold, alternative, integrated solutions. If we succeed in this, we may be able to realize the varied needs of the region in ways that would remake Hampton Roads as a truly creative, livable world region and an example to other metropolitan areas. “America’s first region” could become something exemplary, rather than a demographic cul-de-sac, left wondering if and why there were no other courses taken.
Appendix 1: Greater Hampton Roads (Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Williamsburg, VA-NC CMSA, including Elizabeth City and Nags Head, NC µSAs)
Appendix 2: Hampton Roads Third Crossing Candidate Build Alternative 9
(Appendix 3: Pinners Point Interchange – Next Page)
(Previous Page: Appendix 4 – NAS Oceana Noise Zones and Encroachment Patterns)
Appendix 5: “Dueling Mass Transit”
(Red indicates Norfolk TIDE light rail system; blue indicates Virginia Beach BRT proposal.)
Appendix 6: Southeastern Parkway and Greenbelt Study Area (Next Page)
Preceding Page: Appendix 7 – Sydney Ferries Network Appendix 8: CityRail Network (Metropolitan New South Wales)
Appendix 9: Alternative Automated Transit Proposal for South Hampton Roads
(Phase I: Red; Phase II: Blue; Phase III: Green)
Next Page: Appendix 10 – Greater Hampton Roads Ferry System Proposal
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