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.”

Online

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/
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HCPS wins national honor for overhaul of Code of Student Conduct, supports


Henrico County Public Schools recently was recognized by the National School Boards Association for a sweeping overhaul of the school division’s approach to student supports. HCPS was one of five large U.S. school systems recognized with a first-place honor in the 2017 Magna Awards, presented Saturday in Denver at the organization’s annual conference. The awards recognize school divisions and leaders “for taking bold and innovative steps to improve the lives of students and their communities,” according to the group.

The award recognizes Henrico Schools’ efforts of the past several years, from re-examining its policies to implementing more support systems. After a two-year conversation with the community through public hearings and other feedback, HCPS adopted a revised Code of Student Conduct for the 2015-16 school year. > Read more.

Environmentalists say budget hurts efforts to protect bay

Environmental groups are outraged at the Trump administration’s proposed funding cuts for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.

President Donald Trump’s budget plan, released last week, reduces the budget for the federal Environmental Protection Agency by 31 percent. That includes a $427 million in funding to address regional pollution, such as the Chesapeake Bay protection efforts. The proposed budget would eliminate funding for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which received $73 million from the federal government in 2016. > Read more.

Glen Allen ES principal receives REB Award


Melissa Halquist-Pruden, principal of Henrico County’s Glen Allen Elementary School, earned the 2016-17 REB Award for Distinguished Educational Leadership. The Community Foundation presents the award to four principals annually – one each from the school systems of Henrico, Chesterfield and Hanover counties and one from the city of Richmond schools.

The award recognizes principals who go beyond the day-to-day demands of their jobs to create an exceptional educational environment. The award stresses management and communication skills, and the ability to inspire, encourage and advocate for the school. > Read more.

Grant to help Hermitage H.S. upgrade CTE program equipment


Governor Terry McAuliffe announced recently that Henrico County’s Hermitage H.S. will be among 16 high schools and technical centers statewide to receive a grant to upgrade equipment for career and technical education (CTE) programs.

The program gives priority to challenged schools, Governor's STEM Academies and Governor's Health Science Academies. Each school or center will receive $37,500 to purchase new equipment and make other necessary improvements. At Hermitage, the funds will be used for precision machining equipment. > Read more.

Virginia raises a toast to George Washington’s whiskey


George Washington is recognized as the father of our country, but with a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Washington also will be recognized under another title – distiller of Virginia’s official liquor.

SB 1261, sponsored by Sen. Adam Ebbin of Alexandria, adds a “state spirit” to the list of the commonwealth’s official emblems and designations and crowns George Washington’s rye whiskey with the title.

The bill, which McAuliffe signed last week, highlights George Washington’s contributions to the culture of Virginia as “a native son of Virginia born on February 22, 1732, in Pope’s Creek”; “the first American president, commander of the Continental Army, and president of the Constitutional Convention”; and “a model statesman ... universally acknowledged as the father of our nation.” > Read more.
Community

Villa’s Flagler Housing wins national NAEH award


St. Joseph's Villa’s Flagler Housing & Homeless Services was one of three entities to earn the National Alliance to End Homelessness' Champion of Change Award. The awards were presented Nov. 17 during a ceremony at the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

NAEH annually recognizes proven programs and significant achievements in ending child and family homelessness.

Flagler completed its transition from an on-campus shelter to the community-based model of rapid rehousing in 2013, and it was one of the nation's first rapid re-housing service providers to be certified by NAEH. > Read more.

RIR’s Christmas tree lighting rescheduled for Dec. 12


Richmond International Raceway's 13th annual Community Christmas tree lighting has been rescheduled from Dec. 6 to Monday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., due to inclement weather expected on the original date.

Entertainment Dec. 12 will be provided by the Laburnum Elementary School choir and the Henrico High School Mighty Marching Warriors band. Tree decorations crafted by students from Laburnum Elementary School and L. Douglas Wilder Middle School will be on display. Hot chocolate and cookies will be supplied by the Henrico High School football boosters. > Read more.
Entertainment

Metro Diner to open second Henrico location


Metro Diner, a comfort food concept, will open its second Henrico location next month. The company is accepting job applications for its Libbie Place location at 5626 West Broad Street. The diner concept, known for its fried chicken and waffles, meatloaf, and shrimp and grits, will bring 100 new jobs to the region as it plans to open its doors in April.

The 3,500-square-foot diner located in the Libbie Place Shopping Center will seat more than 100 and serve classic comfort food staples with a twist, such as fried chicken and waffles topped with strawberry butter and a stuffed challah bread French toast with strawberry and blueberry compote. > Read more.

 

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The Henrico County Community Author Showcase, a program that connects writers and readers in the community, will begin at 7 p.m. and continue on the second Monday and every Thursday of the month at various libraries. Justin Young will share his book “Fiyah Starter” at Varina Library. For details, visit http://www.henricolibrary.org/authors. Full text

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