Third crossing options debated

Published 8:24 pm Thursday, July 16, 2015

VDOT is re-evaluating options to relieve congestion at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel while possibly linking to a future new container terminal at Craney Island.

The state transportation department is taking another look at three alternatives identified in an earlier study, Angel Deem, director of VDOT’s environmental division, reported during a Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission meeting Thursday.

The study is going ahead after the Federal Highway Administration and VDOT agreed in May that a supplemental environmental impact statement is the appropriate way to re-evaluate the project in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.

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The initial study was published in early 2001, but voters rejected funding in a referendum.

The project is back after the 2013 Virginia General Assembly created the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund. It also created the 19-voting-member commission charged with allocating regional funds to solve traffic congestion.

Sen. Frank Wagner, who chairs the commission’s finance committee, said the fund currently stands at more than $315 million, with $10 million to $15 million a month flowing in. The commission also can impose tolls.

Deem said VDOT is taking another look at the Hampton Roads Crossing Study — known popularly as the third crossing — “to determine whether all (alternatives) remain as envisioned back then, or whether changes (are needed) … or whether there are new alternatives that need to be brought forth.”

The plan originally advanced includes improving Interstate 664 (including the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel), linking the bridge-tunnel and I-564 at Norfolk Naval Station with the “Patriot’s Crossing” connector, and connecting that to Virginia Route 164 with a new north-south road that also would connect to the future new port facility at Craney Island.

The other two alternatives that didn’t advance but which are being looked at again include improving I-64, including the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel; and improving I-64, plus building a new connector road across the water from I-564 to Craney Island and down to Route 164.

W. Eugene Hunt Jr., mayor of Poquoson, said he wanted to ensure VDOT was also studying improving Route 164, which a citizen had suggested.

Two of the three alternatives link to that road without improving it, Hunt noted, but doing so could lower the cost and environmental impact of the Third Crossing “without 20 miles of bridge.”

“These are considered baseline,” Deem said of the three alternatives. “It doesn’t mean that they will look like this.”

Also on Thursday, Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms was voted the commission’s new chair, replacing Chesapeake Mayor Alan Krasnoff.

The unanimous vote came after a public speaker, Robert Dean, read a letter purportedly from Sessoms’ City Council colleague John D. Moss, imploring commission members not to support Sessoms for the post while accusations he voted to benefit TowneBank customers while a bank president are being investigated.

Williamsburg Mayor Clyde A. Haulman became the vice chair, replacing Wagner.

The commission also supported offering a contract to Kevin Page to become the organization’s first executive director. Page is chief of infrastructure initiatives and strategic partnerships with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.

Page will be offered an annual salary of $192,500, plus one year’s severance pay.