I-64 may get millions to ease congestion
Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation budget would provide millions of dollars for road and rail projects along Interstate 64 from Newport News to Richmond to ease traffic congestion. According to McDonnell’s office, his transportation budget would allocate $64 million for reconstructive paving and $85 million for capacity improvements on I-64. Capacity improvements would widen the lanes so cars have more room to travel.
McDonnell’s transportation plan, dubbed “Virginia’s Road to the Future,” would invest a total of $3.1 billion into the state’s transportation network over the next five years. About $1 billion would go toward more than 150 rail and transit projects.
York County would get about $64,000 to improve secondary roads. About $35 million would go toward the crossover of I-64 and I-95 to fix overlap issues near Richmond.
McDonnell wants to fund his plan by eliminating the 17.5-cents-per-gallon gasoline tax and increasing the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.8 percent.
I-64 is notorious for its heavy traffic and bumpy roads. The congestion problems between Newport News and Richmond have long been a priority for lawmakers, but it has been on the back burner for many years. McDonnell is using his last year in office to shape his legacy around championing the major transportation issues of the state.
“I think when you improve transportation, it’s good for everybody,” said Tamara Rollinson, director of communications for Virginia Department of Transportation. “It’s good for business, tourism, jobs and for the well-being and health of the state.”
Rollinson said McDonnell’s transportation budget would have a tremendous impact on the Newport News, Williamsburg and Richmond areas because traffic volumes have grown substantially over the years.
“Traffic takes up time, gas, preparations, and it tampers with Virginia’s ability to attract visitors,” Rollinson said.
Traffic and congestion can affect visitors’ desire to return. If Virginia’s roads become more travel-friendly, Rollinson believes tourism may increase.
Richard Schreiber, president and chief executive officer of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, agreed.
“Tourists who are driving here expect the trip from Washington to take two hours, but if it takes three to four hours – which is not unheard of – it makes the trip unpleasant and undesirable,” Schreiber said. “If you confront that in both directions, you’re less likely to come back that destination again.”
Schreiber said McDonnell’s transportation plan is a good start, but he believes more needs to be done. He said he would like to see two additional lanes built on both sides.
Schreiber said easing congestion will offer tourists in Virginia a more pleasurable travel experience.
McDonnell’s plan to funding his transportation budget is reflected in Senate Bill 1355, which is sponsored by three Republican senators – Stephen Newman of Forest, Richard Stuart of Montross and Jeffrey McWaters of Virginia Beach.
On Wednesday, the Senate Transportation Committee voted 8-6 in favor of SB 1355. The eight Republicans on the committee voted for the bill; the six Democrats voted against it.
SB 1355 now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for another vote.
“A world-class transportation system is vital to both economic opportunity and to the quality of life of every Virginian,” McDonnell, a Republican, said in a press release. “It is imperative that we act now to ensure that Virginia continues to lead the way as a top place to live, work and raise a family.”
The complete list of highway projects proposed by Gov. Bob McDonnell can be found at: http://tinyurl.com/mcdonnell-highways
The complete list of proposed transit and rail projects is available at: http://tinyurl.com/mcdonnell-rail
Here is the full text of the governor’s transportation funding plan: http://www.governor.virginia.gov/News/viewRelease.cfm?id=1588
To track or comment on Senate Bill 1355, visit the Richmond Sunlight website: http://www.richmondsunlight.com/bill/2013/sb1355/
Citizen Staff Reports 12/16/2013
Virginia Blood Services (VBS), the sole supplier of blood for more than 20 hospitals throughout the state of Virginia, is in need of blood donors to help replenish the local blood supply over the holidays.
A decline in blood donations is typical during the winter months as people become busy with holiday activities and travel. Patient needs remain steady, however, making it important for people to visit a VBS donor site or mobile drive to give blood. > Read more.
In Varina, one of the most anticipated events of the season is approaching. The 19th Annual Big Toy Parade will return on Dec 14, offering a “homey,” small-town feel that helps elicit holiday spirit among participants and spectators alike.
The parade, which begins at 3 p.m., is sponsored by the Battlefield Ruritans and Henrico County Parks and Recreation and is held in conjunction with the James River Boat Parade. It is led by a grand marshal along Old Osborne Turnpike and ends at the Osborne Boat Landing, where hundreds of community members gather to await nightfall and the arrival of lighted boats, concluding a festive holiday celebration. > Read more.
Citizen Staff Reports 12/03/2013
The region's two premier youth soccer organizations – the Richmond Kickers and Richmond Strikers – have partnered to create Richmond United, a cost-free U.S. Soccer Development Academy program designed to serve the most talented players in the region. The arrangement marks the first time in U.S. Soccer Development Academy history that two member clubs have united their respective Academy programs.
Slated to begin play in the fall of 2014, Richmond United will field U13/14, U15/16 and U17/18 U.S. Soccer Development Academy teams. The teams will train and play home games at two of the top soccer specific complexes in the nation, Ukrop Park and Striker Park. > Read more.
It’s the final weekend before Christmas – but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare! Relax with half-a-million twinkling lights, enjoy Theatre IV on Tour’s production of “A Christmas Carol” or experience the 11th annual “Miracle of Christmas – Live at the Metro Richmond Zoo.” Another way to relax before the Big Day is with a good book. You can find a vast array of books, covering many genres, and meet authors at the Celebrate with a Book event on Saturday. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
A number of Henrico students are performing in the Richmond Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, which runs through Dec. 23. Pictured above, left to right are: back row – Elizabeth Sjovald (Mother Ginger), Deema Meguid, Maya Link (Mogi top) and Sophie Rounds (Mother Ginger) and front row – Sarah Echols (Chinese) and Carter Echols (Chinese). > Read more.
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