Archive for October, 2012

U.S. 460 Toll Road on the Way, Construction Scheduled to Start in 2014

Construction on the $1.396 billion U.S. 460 toll project is scheduled to begin in 2014 with the road scheduled to open in 2018, according to Virginia’s Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships. The 55-mile road from Suffolk to Petersburg will cost $3.69 for cars and $11.72 for trucks. Toll rates will increase 3.5 percent per year. The existing U.S. 460 will remain a free alternative route without tolls.

“This is a huge economic development opportunity for Southside and Hampton Roads,” said Jeffrey C. Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.

The four-lane divided, limited-access highway with seven interchanges is targeted at helping freight traffic move swiftly and easily out of the state’s Hampton Roads marine terminals.

“The 460 project will provide a rapid and economical alternative for freight movement into and out of the Port of Virginia,” state Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton said. “In addition to its transportation benefits,” Connaughton said, “the project will open several mega-sites for manufacturing and distribution centers that will drive economic development and dramatically increase port activity.”

A public-private partnership, the new U.S. 460 will be built largely with public money. Virginia’s Department of Transportation plans to commit between $753 and $930 million in public funding to the project. The Virginia Port Authority plans to commit between $202 and $250 million. Private-sector contractor, US 460 mobility partners is responsible for arranging additional financing. According to officials, the use of public financing will reduce the length of time tolls will be charged from 99 to 40 years.

The project is still awaiting approval for $248 to $341 million in federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act — TIFIA — loans from the Federal Highway Administration. The TIFIA loan will impact the amount of public money used for the project.

As a leading transportation consulting firm, Randy Wright and Associates is an industry leader in urban development and multimodal transportation projects. Follow our blog for the latest industry news and trends.

US 460 Signimage credit: Will Weaver on Flickr

Norfolk to New York: Governor McDonnell Announces Amtrak Northeast Extension

Norfolk now has a direct rail connection to New York. Governor Bob McDonnell announced Amtrak Virginia’s Northeast Regional service extension to and from Norfolk will start December 12, 2012. Passengers will have the option to take a same-seat trip from Norfolk to Richmond, Washington DC, Baltimore, New York City and even Boston.

Governor McDonnell stated: “The partnership between the Commonwealth and Amtrak to bring an Amtrak Virginia station to the city of Norfolk reflects my administration’s commitment to continue to make progress in improving our transportation networks for the state. By providing the citizens of Virginia an alternative way to get to and from Southside Hampton Roads, it takes cars off the highways, helping ease congestion on already highly-traveled roads. The new station provides a one-seat ride to Richmond, Washington, DC and major cities along the northeast corridor, offering an economical and environmentally-friendly way to travel.”

Amtrak’s extension to Norfolk marks the first intercity passenger rail service to the city since 1977. The Norfolk Amtrak station will be at Harbor Park in downtown Norfolk. Passengers will have easy access to connect with The Tide, Hampton Roads’ only multimodal light rail system.

As transportation consulting experts, Randy Wright and Associates can assist you with launching your next urban transit project.

Amtrakimage credit: Johnathan Hawkin on Flickr

Featured Photo: Eleanor Saslaw, Senator Dick Saslaw & RWA President W. Randy Wright

VA Sen Dick Saslaw (Democratic Minority Chair), Randy Wright at Redskins vs Falcons

Shown are Eleanor Saslaw, Virginia Senator Richard “Dick” L. Saslaw (Senate District 35, Democratic Minority Chair), and  RWA President W. Randy Wright at FedEx Field for the Washington Redskins vs. Atlanta Falcons NFL football game.

A Letter from Virginia Transit Association regarding SJR 297

Commonwealth Transportation Board

Action Request: contact your Commonwealth Transportation Board members today regarding SJR 297 recommendation concerns.

VTA members and Transit Friends:

Next Wednesday, October 17, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will hear Director Thelma Drake make a presentation on DRPT’s SJ297 recommendations which significantly change the transit allocation formula and increase the agency’s role in the distribution of funds. Her PowerPoint is attached. There don’t appear to be any significant changes to the plan since the stakeholders meeting in September. We understand the full report will be released at the Commission meeting on the 17th.

I will be there to express VTA’s concerns about the formula at the public comment time. All CTB members received the VTA statement of concern in early October. They need to hear from transit providers, local governments and others concerned, so contact your CTB members to briefly let them know that you have significant concerns and the potential problems for your local service. We want the CTB to hear that providers ACROSS THE STATE are not on board with this plan. DRPT will not be highlighting your concerns; therefore, be sure to contact your CTB representative before the meeting.

Here are the CTB members: Call, email or write the CTB members in your region and the urban or rural at-large members. Even if it indicates their term has expired some continue to serve until a new appointment is made.

Director Drake’s CTB Presentation (Click workshop agenda, then 297 update.)

Transit providers: please talk to your boards, local government administrators, officials and legislators. VTA members who have done so have found it very productive. Local officials have received some information from the Virginia Municipal League and have expressed interest and concern, but they need to hear from you.

Linda McMinimy
Executive Director
Virginia Transit Association
1108 E. Main St., Suite 1108
Richmond, VA. 23219

Empire State to Receive $92.3 Million in Recovery Aid

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the approval of three disaster recovery plans to assist several communities throughout New York State. The plans, totaling 92.3 million in aid, were designated to help the communities recover from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.

“Now that these plans are in place, it’s time to get down to the real business of rebuilding the housing and infrastructure damaged by last year’s terrible storms,” said Mirza Orriols, HUD’s Acting Regional Administrator. “New York, and most especially Orange County and the Town of Union can now begin to make their neighborhoods whole again.”

The grants, which are expected to support long-term disaster recovery, were provided through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program.

In November 2011 Congress appropriated $300 million in CDBG funds to support long-term disaster recovery throughout the nation. In the aftermath of last year’s disasters, Congress also gave HUD the authority to allocate up to $100 million in additional CDBG funds to help “the most impacted and distressed areas.” Funds are intended to meet the deficit of housing, business and infrastructure needs beyond those projects that have already been met by other forms of public and private assistance.

Due to the heavy flooding from Hurricane Irene and the damage from Tropical Storm Lee, HUD previously allocated $71,654,116 to the state of New York. The majority of those funds went to assist Schoharie, Tioga, Broome, Greene and Orange counties.

Randy Wright and Associates offers government relations and urban land development consultation services. Contact us for assistance on your next urban planning project.

Hurricane Ireneimage credit: NASA Goddard Photo and Video on flickr

Increase in Housing Development an Indicator of Economic Growth

Housing development is on the rise according to newly released figures from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Census Bureau. Across the nation, housing production rose 2.3 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 750,000 units in August. The production increase was fueled by the new construction in the single-family sector. New home construction increased across every region for a combined 5.5 percent gain to 535,000 units.

Single-family housing production hit its greatest seasonally adjusted annual rate in more than two years, increasing by 29.1 percent. An increase in construction is an indicator that recovery of the housing market is underway. An increase in builder confidence has led to a spike in housing starts. Accordingly, the number of privately-owned housing completions in August increased 11.7 percent from August 2011.

Existing home sales are also up. According to a release from the National Association of Realtors total sales rose 7.8 percent to an annualized rate of 4.82 million units in August from 4.47 million in July. Sales for August 2012 were also 9.3 percent higher than during August 2011.

As a national leader in the urban planning and development sector, Randy Wright and Associates provides professional consultants for urban planning, civic planning and land development. Let’s schedule a conversation to discuss your next urban housing project.

Home Under Constructionimage credit: steveartist on flickr

HRT Rider Survey Says Bring The Tide to Virginia Beach

Hampton Roads Transit conducted a recent survey of The Tide riders to gain feedback of riders’ impression and usage of the light rail transit system. The survey included responses from 3000 riders.

Based upon the survey, 60 percent of riders indicated a need for an extension of The Tide light rail to Virginia Beach. Subsequently, it was also found that a high percentage of The Tide riders, 44 percent, ride by choice stating they would drive if The Tide were not available.

Other key factors identified by the survey included:

  • 45 percent of The Tide survey respondents are under 30 years old versus 34 percent on the bus system.
  • Riders using The Tide during the week are primarily going to work or home.
  • Riders using The Tide on Saturdays are likely riding for recreational purposes. They are also more likely to be first-time riders.
  • Almost one third of all riders board at Newtown Road and 61 percent of those riders are Virginia Beach residents.

Randy Wright and Associates was integrally involved in the establishment of The Tide in Hampton Roads. As the Father of Light Rail, Randy Wright is skilled in multimodal transportation development. Let’s discuss how we can assist with your next urban transit endeavor.

The Tide Ridersimage credit: norfolkdistrict on flickr

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