Va. Transportation Plan Allots $1.1B to Hampton Roads

April 21--RICHMOND -- Hampton Roads gained hundreds of millions of dollars in the draft transportation plan presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board on Wednesday -- the region's biggest road-building budget in a decade, local leaders say.

Over six years, Hampton Roads would get at least $1.1 billion, about $200 million more than the last six-year plan. Funded projects include Virginia Beach priorities: the Lesner Bridge replacement and the widenings of Lynnhaven Parkway and Witchduck and Holland roads.

The region also stands to gain a large chunk of $1.4 billion reserved for public-private toll projects. Four projects are vying for that money, and two are in Hampton Roads -- expanding the Midtown Tunnel and rebuilding U.S. 460 to interstate quality.

"It's a great day for Hampton Roads," said Aubrey Layne, who represents the region on the transportation board. "We're seeing in hard numbers that money is coming to Hampton Roads."

Dwight Farmer, executive director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, agreed.

"This is the best news we've heard this decade, and it's all being done within the existing revenue stream."

Virginia Beach officials, however, were expecting about $360 million for road improvements; instead, the city will get about 40 percent of that, said Bob Matthias, assistant to the city manager.

Projects that were not funded include Dam Neck, Indian River and Laskin roads.

"While we're appreciative of we got, we don't know what happened to the rest of the money," Matthias said. "We don't know, and no one seems to know."

He said it will take time to review the document to see "who the winners and who the losers were."

For several years, the state's road-building budget has shrunk due to declining fuel tax receipts. But thanks to a $3 billion infusion of borrowed money that was part of Gov. Bob McDonnell's transportation package, the proposed budget has grown 33 percent, to $10.4 billion. About $8.1 billion is for roads and $2.3 billion for rail and public transit.

"It's the first time in years that projects have actually been added and will be able to be funded," McDonnell told the transportation board in releasing the draft plan. "This is what the citizens have been asking about for a while.

"We'll be able to get a lot of projects jump-started locally."

McDonnell said the expanded plan is not just about money but also accountability for VDOT's performance.

The transportation package included 900 projects statewide that he said would be accelerated or completed as a result of the funding plan.

Rita Busher, VDOT chief of planning and programming, said the list represents projects that are candidates for funding and was never meant to be a building plan.

"The list was definitely more than the available funding," Busher said.

Debbie Messina, (757) 446-2588, debbie.messina@pilotonline.com

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