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Monday, November 23, 2009

V-DOT's commissioner says region's traffic problems can be solved with light rail

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As traffic continues to build up in Hampton Roads, Va., the money to add more roads or expand them is drying up on the state and federal level. Virginia DOT doesn't plan to give a cent to local cities for road projects for the next six years. Virginia's Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer says drivers in Hampton Roads need to look at alternative transportation like light rail.

But Norfolk councilman Randy Wright says it's not an alternative because right now Norfolk's light rail, the Tide, won't be complete until sometime in 2010.

"Light rail can make a difference in the congestion - once the pieces are put together," says Wright. Until the Tide is complete, Wright says fixing our roads needs to be a priority.

"There's got to be a funding source created somewhere on the state and federal level for us to be able to deal with our road needs in the future. Light rail is just one component of that. A component, because the plan for the tide is that it will only travel through downtown Norfolk to Newtown Road.

Basically, it's a park and ride option for those wanting to drive to Newtown Road and ride into downtown Norfolk or vice versa.

And because V-DOT does not have any plans within the next six years to help financially expand light rail, it's not an alternative, only an option.

Wright says the bottom line is that the roads need to be fixed.

With federal and state funding drying up for mass transit along with V-DOT's major budget crisis, expanding light rail into Virginia Beach could take more than six years without alternative funding.

There is some good news for drivers stuck in traffic nightmares. V-DOT says even with its budget crisis it still plans on funding two major road projects.

In another story, Boush Street will be reduced to one lane in each direction at the intersection of Bute Street beginning as early as Nov. 24for light-rail-track installation. Entrance and exit points for the York Street garage will be limited to York Street. Pedestrian access will be maintained.

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