HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) - A lot of money is coming to Hampton Roads for major road projects because of the governor's transportation legislation. But some say it may not be enough to get the big projects done.
There has already been a legal battle over tolls at the Downtown Tunnel, but some top transportation officials tell WAVY.com tolls may be unavoidable to alleviate gridlock in the future.
For about four hours during a retreat hosted by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, state and local leaders looked at the new transportation money coming to Hampton Roads and which projects to spend them on.
"It's an significant improvement," Commonwealth Transportation Board member Aubrey Layne said. "Instead of people complaining about the condition of the roads they will be complaining about construction."
The money will help pay for work on the $100 million Interstate 64 widening project on the Peninsula. There is also money for improvements along Military Highway and the resurfacing of Interstate 264 and Interstate 64.
"There is roughly almost $5 billion in projects coming through Hampton Roads over the next few years," Layne said.
But, that's still not enough, meaning more money will have to come from somewhere. Thursday, transportation leaders looked at the possibility of tolls being the answer.
Transportation officials are considering tolls at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Monitor Merimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel to raise the cash.
"The fact of the matter is even with all this new money for these significant mega projects, and these are projects costing a billion dollars or more, to think we can pay for them without tolls we'd only be fooling ourselves," Layne said.
Mega projects like the proposed third water crossing dubbed Patriots Crossing from Naval Station Norfolk to the MMMBT.
"I wish there were some additional alternatives and they we have been looking, but simply these are such huge financial costs to do these projects," Layne said.
An idea that could be a reality soon is putting tolls on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. Under a plan called 'congestion pricing,' drivers would pay a toll during the busiest times of the day.
"Congestion pricing would probably be in effect, if at all, during rush hour so four to six hours a day," Executive Director for the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization Dwight Farmer said.
Farmer says the toll would be as low as 50 cents a round trip. The idea is that the tolls would divert drivers away from the HRBT, decreasing traffic and help pay for those mega projects the area needs.
"We only need 10 percent of the rush hour traffic not at HRBT during rush hour and in the morning and the afternoon not to be there at that hour," Farmer said. "We would be able to eliminate severe congestion and would not have implement any tolls."
By 2030, Farmer says drivers could have tolls on the HRBT and MMMBT twenty four hours, seven days a week, because of the area's growing transportation needs.
"To do a mega project that is in the multiple billion of dollars, we don't see a way to implement those projects without some sort of a toll," Farmer said.
Nothing discussed at Thursday's transportation retreat was voted on. Leaders were simply discussing tolling as an option.
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