Hampton Roads transit plan includes street cars, ferries

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Commuters dealing with Hampton Roads’ daily traffic congestion hope to get some relief when Norfolk’s light-rail transit line, The Tide, opens in May.

The $338 million, 7.4 mile-long corridor will be the first light-rail transit line in Virginia. It also is part of the Hampton Roads Regional Transit Vision Plan. That plan outlines a regional transit network that will help relieve traffic congestion, now at an alltime high in many Tidewater hot spots by connecting “major employment and population centers” in the region, says Karen Waterman, transit development
manager for Hampton Roads Transit. “One solution is to make better use of the roads and waterways we have and to develop corridors that are ideally suited for transit.”

The plan looks at a variety of transit alternatives, from light-rail and streetcar lines to a high-speed ferry and express bus services. All of these types of transit are expected to help address the increased demand on the transportation infrastructure as the Hampton Roads area continues to grow.

The Tide light-rail line will have 11 stations and run from Eastern Virginia Medical School through downtown Norfolk, past City Hall, the MacArthur Center and Harbor Park, and then continue east to Newtown Road at the Virginia Beach city line. The second corridor outlined in the vision plan, an extension of The Tide to the Virginia Beach oceanfront, is undergoing an environmental study that should be completed by the end of 2011. Hampton Roads Transit also will examine options to extend The Tide to Naval Station Norfolk, the region’s largest employer.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation is evaluating and refining the corridors identified in the study. “We are looking at each in more detail to determine if they work within existing and/or future land use and fit within the local comprehensive plans in a way that will support a regional transit system,” says Courtney Ware, the department’s manager of policy and communication.

Hampton Roads Transit held public information meetings on the vision plan in November and December. Final study recommendations are scheduled to be presented this month to local agencies, including Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, the Transportation District Commission of Hampton Roads and Williamsburg Area Transit Authority.

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