The Transportation Planning Organization (TPO) held it's annual Retreat today.
Most important was that the draft list from the project prioritization list was carried forward by consensus for the 2034 Long Range Plan (LRP). Some concern was raised that it didn't put additional lanes across the harbor. However, it was pointed out that the Patriots' Crossing coupled with excess capacity at the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel would provide additional ability. For the wingnuts (from both sides) who have attacked Governor Bob McDonnell's transportation initiative, let me point out 13 of the 17 Projects for Construction were only on the list due to anticipated funds from the GARVEE bond float. The TPO will act on the draft 2034 LRP list at it's March 17 meeting. A final list is required to be sent to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) by June, in order that VDOT can do the air conformity work on the list.
An analysis from Old Dominion University's Virginia Modeling, Analysis, and Simulation Center on harbor crossings was presented. 29 different accident scenarios were modeled, and in 90% of them the Patriots' Crossing provided more traffic relief than an expanded Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT). The only scenarios where an expanded HRBT scored higher was when the accident was on or in the periphery of the HRBT. Members of the Hampton Roads Caucus of the General Assembly had requested such a look. With only so many people crossing the harbor daily, they wanted to know which alternative provided better relief elsewhere in the region.
A Presentation on Value Pricing was made by Angela Jacobs. Ms. Jacobs is a Subject Matter Expert (SME) from the Federal Highway Administration. Value Pricing, also known as Congestion Pricing, puts variable levels of tolls on a road depending on time of the day. The idea is to make it cheaper to travel off-peak, while forcing drivers to pay a premium to drive a congested road at rush hour.
High Speed Rail was briefly covered. First, there will be a conference call on March 1 between TPO Staff, Staff from Virginia's Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), and the Federal Railway Administration. The idea is to try to get everyone on the same page about High Speed Rail to Norfolk. Second, DRPT Director Thelma Drake will be at the March TPO meeting to discuss the issue with the TPO Board. Third, we're looking to apply for NEPA money for a Norfolk High Speed Rail alignment in May, 2012.
The Board looked towards budgeting for FY 2012.
Finally, Facilitator Jim Oliver opened a discussion on the TPO's Executive Committee. Oliver noted that two years ago it would have been unimaginable that the region could have come together on a projects list and High Speed Rail. He suggested working through the full Board, as it has helped form consensus. However, some looked towards a future when the TPO and HRPDC will have different Executive Directors and totally separated Staffs. At that time, the Executive Committee will be necessary to cover personnel matters.