Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MPO January 21, 2009

This morning the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), Hampton Roads' regional Transportation planning board, met.

Off the bat, the Consent Agenda was passed. It included $1.5 million for the Southside light rail extensions study package of Newtown Road - Dome site in Virginia Beach and EVMS - Navy base in Norfolk.

A consultant presented the MPO Best Practices final report. First, it waffled on the weighted voting issue, recommending both weighted and unweighted voting systems. Second, a few MPO members hedged on exactly how to do public input.

A review of Transportation legislation pending in the General Assembly was conducted. A long debate ensued when a couple Peninsula members tried to get the MPO to endorse Delegate Oder's bill to bid out Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion as a PPTA. There was no vote, the primary reason being that no one had a copy of the text of the bill. Secondarily, concern was expressed that such a piecemeal approach deviated from the MPO addressing the region's Transportation problems as a whole.

Mayor Paul Fraim explained Norfolk's opposition to the four-lane expansion of the HRBT that the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) had studied. Such a project would require condemnations of over 1,200 homes in Norfolk, while 900 others would be hit with a significant noise impact. In contrast, The Third Crossing (3X) would only need the condemnations of 38 homes.

Speaking of which, a study by Old Dominion University (ODU) on the issue was presented. ODU did computer modeling of all alternatives for relieving congestion at the HRBT. Please note, VBTA: only The Third Crossing provided appreciable congestion relief. In event of an accident, an expanded HRBT couldn't do it alone.

Finally, there was discussion of pending Federal stimulus legislation. Concern was expressed over how "ready for shovel" would be defined, and whether enough of our region's projects could meet the criteria.

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