News Column

Panel OKs new Hampton Roads transportation group

January 30, 2014

By Bill Sizemore, The Virginian-Pilot

Jan. 30 -- RICHMOND -- A new regional transportation planning entity for Hampton Roads is on a fast track to passage in the General Assembly . Del. Chris Jones' bill (HB1253) creating the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission received unanimous approval from a House subcommittee today and now advances to the full Transportation Committee. The new entity will be empowered to determine how to spend some $200 million a year flowing to Hampton Roads as a result of new regional sales and fuel taxes levied by the legislature last year. It will also have bonding and tolling authority. Jones, R- Suffolk , told the subcommittee his legislation is tailored to prevent any repeat of the public-private deal put in place by former Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration that will result in the re-tolling of the Downtown and Midtown tunnels beginning this weekend. The tolls will pay for a new two-lane tube at the Midtown Tunnel , refurbishment of the Downtown Tunnel and an extension of the Martin Luther King Freeway in Portsmouth . The deal generated an outpouring of public anger in Hampton Roads . The tunnel project was rammed through by McDonnell's transportation secretary, Sean Connaughton , with insufficient input from Hampton Roads' elected leaders, Jones told the panel. "The deal was done behind closed doors," he said. "The former secretary saddled us with tolls four years before any new capacity is added." The new regional commission will concentrate control of future local transportation projects -- including tolling authority -- in local hands, Jones said. The 21-member group will consist of the mayors and county board chairs of Hampton Roads' 14 cities and counties, three state lawmakers from the region, and four non-voting members. The legislation drew support from Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration; the cities of Norfolk , Virginia Beach and Chesapeake ; and the Hampton Roads Business Roundtable. ___ (c)2014 The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) Visit The Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, Va.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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Source: Virginian-Pilot (Norfolk, VA)

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