A little bit of light

Published 10:26 pm Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Despite the recession that recently ended, despite unemployment rates that refuse to fall, despite the continuing crisis in the housing market, one of the most hotly debated topics in Virginia — especially in the Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia areas — continues to be transportation.

Traffic problems around Hampton Roads are a perennial frustration to those who live here. When something goes wrong — a bridge or a tunnel is shut down for some reason during rush hour, for instance — the traffic delays become the stuff of local legend.

To their credit, state officials continue to work on peripheral solutions even as the state legislature’s rural-versus-urban divides have jammed up any legislative solution to the primary problems for years.


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Progress on a new passenger railroad that would connect the area with Richmond, as well as continuing efforts to find a way to build a new Route 460, are both examples of how state officials are trying to do what they can for the area’s transportation network, even though they’ve been unable to address the main issues because of the General Assembly’s intransigence.

With a deal on the table for Norfolk Southern Railroad to provide passenger service between Norfolk and Richmond — and thence to the Northeast corridor — officials hope some of the east-west traffic that ties up I-64 and Routes 460 and 58 will be alleviated within the next couple of years.

Another pressure-relief valve would be provided by a wider, safer Route 460, officials say, and they’ve been pursuing a public-private partnership that would help the state pay the astronomical cost of replacing that road. So far, there haven’t been any palatable proposals put forward — tolls would range up to $11 for cars and as high as $42 for trucks using the new road, and the state still would be asked to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to the project.

It’s hard to get excited about a project with such problems at the outset, and Tidewater commuters would surely point out that neither project would do much to alleviate the everyday traffic that grinds down so many people twice a day.

But folks in Hampton Roads are desperate for news that indicates some type of movement out of the darkness caused by their snarled transportation network. And in a dark place, even a little bit of light is welcome.