Warner stumps for ‘3 yeses’

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 4, 2002

&uot;Three solids yeses.&uot;

Gov. Mark Warner, in Suffolk Saturday morning promoting passage of the Hampton Roads Transportation Referendum, told approximately 50 people gathered at the Holiday Inn that he hopes voters will also support the state referendums providing funding for college infrastructure and state parks.

&uot;I hope we see three solid yeses. It will be a great signal showing support for transportation, education and the environment.&uot;


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The regional transportation referendum calls for a 1-cent sales tax increase, from 4.5 cents to 5.5 cents per dollar, to pay for five major road projects, as well as transit improvements, over the next 20 years.

The referendum will be going before voters in Suffolk, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, James City County, York County, and Isle of Wight County on Tuesday.

Warner urged the Suffolk residents to encourage their friends, neighbors and co-workers to vote.

&uot;We’re asking people to do something hard,&uot; said Warner. &uot;Not many people want to jump up Tuesday morning and go to the polls to vote themselves a tax increase.&uot;

But that’s probably the most quickest way to make sure that Hampton Roads’ transportation needs are met over the next two decades.

The state, facing a $5.5-$6 million deficit, doesn’t have funds available, Warner said. If the regional referendum doesn’t pass, the much-needed projects eventually will be sent back for the General Assembly for alternate funding consideration down the road.

&uot;If we are going to find the revenues to fund these road projects, we need to look to ourselves,&uot; Warner said.

The governor said the proposal has garnered bipartisan support from local governments across Hampton Roads, as well as most state and federal elected officials representing the region.

&uot;It’s remarkable,&uot; Warner said. &uot;I’ve never seen this level of support from all elected officials, regardless of party lines.

&uot;They all are saying it is the only viable option …that this is the answer.&uot;

Specific projects that would be funded by the referendum include:

– Widening U.S. 460, $618 million. The road would be rebuilt to interstate standards from Bowers Hill in Chesapeake to the Suffolk Bypass. A new four-lane highway would be built from the west end of the Suffolk Bypass to the Isle of Wight/Southampton County line.

-A third bridge-tunnel connecting South Hampton Roads and the Peninsula, $4.3 billion. Two sets of bridges and tunnels, with lanes reserved for transit or HOV, would run from Norfolk International Terminals to Craney Island in Portsmouth, then parallel to the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel.

– Widening Interstate 64 on the Peninsula, $1.1 billion. The highway would be expanded from four to six lanes, plus two HOV lanes, from Bland Boulevard in Newport News to the James City County/New Kent County line.

-Improving the Midtown Tunnel and the Martin Luther King Freeway, $660 million.

A two-lane tunnel would be built parallel to the existing tunnel, and Martin Luther King Freeway would be extended to I-264.

– The Southeastern Parkway and Greenbelt, $870 million. A new 19-mile, six-lane parkway, including HOV lanes, would be built from I-264 in Virginia Beach to the Oak Grove Connector in Chesapeake.

– Improving mass transit, $200 million. An additional $10 million a year for 20 years would be spent on buses or some type of passenger rail, possibly light rail, high-speed rail or magnetic levitation. Unlike the other proposals, a plan has not yet been developed for how the money would be spent.

The added sales tax would be used to pay off up to $7 billion in bonds to help fund the improvements. The tax would end when bonds were repaid, in about 35 years.

The money would be controlled locally by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission, which would contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation to build the roads.

Food, drugs, gas, and house mortgages would be exempted from the tax, Warner added.

The tax increase would not impact the amount of funding localities already receive from sales tax revenue, he said.

&uot;I can assure that this money will not be diverted,&uot; Warner said. &uot;It is going to be used to pay off $7 billion in debt.

&uot;It’s the law. Should the Hampton Roads Planning Commission divert the money anywhere, they would go to jail.&uot;

Features, including an oversight committee, are being established to make sure the funding is handled properly, Warner added.