Hampton Roads/Tidewater’s Last Chance With HRTA

My new state senator, John Miller (D-1SD), saw his bill to kill the HRTA die in committee. He had modified his own bill to end the unelected, unaccountable, unseparated powers Regional Government to exclude only The Peninsula. Still, it went down 10-4.

Now, the only chance to kill the HRTA this session is the bill my delegate, Tom Gear (R-91HD), submitted. HB 829 redlines, repeals, the HRTA and its projects which don’t solve the transportation congestion here from the monster HB3202. The rest of HB3202 stands for the rest of the Commonwealth to suffer.

The People of Tidewater still stand against this wrong plan, expansion of unnecessary government, and wrong taxes over 2:1.

Yet, the bill isn’t even on the docket in the House Transportation Committee. Here are the committee members:

* Del. Joe May (R-33) Chair
* Del. Glenn Oder (R-94) Chair
* Del. Mamye BaCote (D-95)
* Del. Bob Brink (D-48)
* Del. Bill Carrico (R-5)
* Del. John Cosgrove (R-78)
* Del. Adam Ebbin (D-49)
* Del. Bill Fralin (R-17)
* Del. Jeff Frederick (R-52)
* Del. Tom Gear (R-91)
* Del. Tim Hugo (R-40)
* Del. Dwight Jones (D-70)
* Del. Manoli Loupassi (R-68)
* Del. Dave Marsden (D-41)
* Del. Paul Nichols (D-51)
* Del. Tom Rust (R-86)
* Del. Chris Saxman (R-20)
* Del. Ed Scott (R-30)
* Del. Robert Tata (R-85)
* Del. David Toscano (D-57)
* Del. Shannon Valentine (D-23)
* Del. Jeion Ward (D-92)

So, why isn’t HB 829 up for a vote in committee? Who is afraid of what?

My mayor, Gordon Helsel (Poquoson), and my local Republican precinct captain, Dr. Charles Flynn, were in Richmond yesterday to speak at the Senate.

Perhaps more folks need to speak to both Republican and Democrats on the House Transportation Committee to get HB829 out for a vote. It’s just a vote for The People the need to see.

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  1. Groveton Avatar


    I agree that the people of Tidewater shouldn’t be forced into having a transportation authority they do not want. But how do you know if they want it or not?

    You make the following statement:

    “The People of Tidewater still stand against this wrong plan, expansion of unnecessary government, and wrong taxes over 2:1.”.

    You may be right but how do you arrive at that? Was there a poll or survey?

    Also, by chance, do you have any idea if a similar poll or survey was ever conducted for the Northern Virginia Regional Transportation Authority? In general conversation around here I get the feeling that most people think it’s a good idea for NoVA. I don’t have any quantitative evidence – just a feeling.

  2. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’m not thrilled with the unelected governance and less accountability… and would prefer to see more direct election of members.

    The major problem that was intended for the TA’s to solve is to have localities agree on what regional projects should take priority and to take some direct responsibility for how to fund them.

    The idea that there is “not enough money to build the projects “necessary” sounds a lot like a tax&spend argument to me.

    You spend what you have and you make choices about priorities and when you’re done -you’re done unless you want to raise more taxes or consider tolls.

    I find the concept of “conservatives” looking to Richmonmd for more money..and to make spending decisions for the HR/TW Region as incongress with respect to conservative principles of less BIG government and more self reliance.

    I’m thinking that the reasons why the NoVa folks are relatively happy with their TA is the very fact that they will have more control over their regional destiny…

    so I’m still not fully understanding the HR/TW mindset – as a region.
    I’m scratchin my head here…

    For me…”unaccountability” is the school board telling the BOS that the budget requires them to raise taxes…. now THAT’s unaccountable!


  3. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    There were votes in 98 and 02 and a poll in 07. Over 2:1 in Tidewater don’t want Regional Government.

  4. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Who We Are

    The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), one of 21 Planning District Commissions in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a regional organization representing this area’s sixteen local governments. Planning District Commissions are voluntary associations and were created in 1969 pursuant to the Virginia Area Development Act and a regionally executed Charter Agreement. The HRPDC was formed in 1990 by the merger of the Southeastern Virginia Planning District Commission and the Peninsula Planning District Commission.
    Who We Are

    The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC), one of 21 Planning District Commissions in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is a regional organization representing this area’s sixteen local governments.
    What We Do

    The purpose of planning district commissions, as set out in the Code of Virginia, Section 15.2-4207 is “…to encourage and facilitate local government cooperation and state-local cooperation in addressing on a regional basis problems of greater than local significance.”

    From the Code of Virginia: § 15.2-4207. Purposes of commission.

    D. Nothing herein shall be construed to permit the commission to perform functions, operate programs, or provide services within and for a locality if the governing body of that jurisdiction opposes its doing so.

  5. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Guess I missed the point there, Larry. HRPDC is a local body made up of elected officials, which has no taxing authority.

    HRTA is a subdivision of the commonwealth, and is authorized taxing and bonding authority without approval or recourse of the citizens. While communities are permitted to opt out of the HRPDC, none have this option in HRTA.

    HRPDC and most authorities were created as a separate entities ie. a ‘body politic and corporate’. The enabling legislation in the Virginia Code for both the NVTA and HRTA doesn’t contain this legalese, which appears to indicate they are an extension of state government and not independent bodies. It wouldn’t take too extreme a step to present the theory, in the event of default, that any bonds issued by these entities are obligations of the state, and not the local communities.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    I’ll try to explain….

    First, I don’t like the idea of them not being elected and directly accountable also but the TW/HR MPO does about the same thing as the TA in my mind and have been legally able to do that for a long time.

    Here’s how it happens.

    The people in HR/TW pay two gas taxes – one State and one Federal. These taxes and the amount of the taxes is not decided by the HR/TW MPO but rather by the GA and Congress.

    These taxes ARE paid by the citizens of HR/TW to the State and Feds and then find their way back your region – but through your MPO – not directly to the local jurisdictions (except for some rural roads).

    This is accomplished via an omnibus budget process that produces a Region-wide “TIP” and a “CLRP” which basically is a list of every major road project in your region and those lists have to be approved by a majority of the member jurisdictions.

    Okay.. so my point is that your MPO doesn’t get to decide what kinds of taxes nor how much those taxes are but they do get to decide how the money will be spent on a region-wide basis.

    so I see the TA as doing a similar process. They don’t get to decide what to tax or how much the tax will be.. but they do get to decide what the taxes get spent on – with local jurisdiction concurrence.

    I think the jurisdictions can OPT out – either legally or just by not participating but some of the taxes will still be collected.

    So.. Poquoson does not have to show up at the MPO – even if they are listed as a member against their will – just don’t show up… but the State and Federal gas tax will still be collected and what it is spent on – controlled by the MPO.

    Been this way for a long time – long before the TA controversy arose.

    It’s the same deal with some (but not all) of the TA taxes.

    Poquoson can opt out of some of the taxes and actual participation in the TA (just don’t show up) but some of the taxes will still be collected and allocated with or without them just as the gas taxes are handled by the MPO.

    In short.. the TA’s dont’ seem that different… than the MPOs…


  7. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    If the MPO operates as you say, then what do the localities need a TA for? Why not simply authorize the MPOs to issue bonds and tax as the TA is doing? It’s all the same politicians after all.

    In fact the MPO would have more authority because they develop the TIP under federal guidelines. The TA is legislatively limited to only those projects the GA approved.

    I think you are comparing two entities that are not equal. The MPO is a recognized corporate entity, much as a town or county is. They have the ability to allocate federal funds, such as congestion relief money, for projects such as Norfolk’s light rail.

    The TA carries no such distinction and is dependent upon the legislative powers of the GA. That’s why the TA must petition the GA to change the taxes and fees or construction sequence, instead of having the authority to do it themselves. Giving the TA autonomy would make it no different than a town or county, invoking Article VII of the Virginia Constitution.

  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    “If the MPO operates as you say, then what do the localities need a TA for? Why not simply authorize the MPOs to issue bonds and tax as the TA is doing? It’s all the same politicians after all.”

    The TAs to a certain extent ARE redundant.

    They do not have the final say on projects.. the MPOs do via their TIP/CLRP process.

    But some MPOs are multi-state like the one in the DC Area and so the NoVa Ta handles NoVa money and actually does develop it’s own list of projects which then get submitted to the WashMetro MPO (officially called the MWCOG/TPB).

    The other duty of the MPOs is air quality conformity and in areas that are designated as non-attainment, new roads are not allowed unless an analysis shows that they will not add to existing pollution levels.

    In the DC area, what this boils down to is that most new roads have to be HOV or (now) HOT lanes.

    We agree. The TAs do not have taxing authority. They are merely the designated recipients of those revenues except they do so as a Regional entity.

    this gets even more complicated because VDOT has a role is allocating gas tax (both Fed and State) revenues into projects also.

    Outside of the existing MPOs, VDOT district offices function as defacto MPOs…

    Inside of MPO boundaries it depends on what kind of MPO they are. Smaller MPOs don’t have complete control of the process.

    They can designate/prioritize projects but VDOT can decide what projects they will fund – effectively overriding the MPO.

    But bigger MPOs like the one in HR/TW and Washington have much more control over the process.

    As far as why not just give the money to the MPO in areas where MPOs are not multi-state and they are all-Virginia – the TAs WILL be mostly redundant because the projects they select to spend the funds on will be RECOMMENDATIONS to the MPO TIP.

    However, most localities – so far – have or intend to have the same county reps on each one.

    You’ll see, in time, if not sooner – “Joint” meetings of the MPOs and TAs… (for the more autonomous MPOs) because much of the business conducted will be redundant…

    For the smaller ones.. it could get to be a mess.. because VDOT will effectively call the shots for the spending of gas tax money and the TA’s will do their thing for the money they control…. UNLESS the GA essentially turns over all control to the TAs – who at that point for the smaller MPOs will function much like VDOT. The MPO votes the TIP but the TA would decide what TIP projects to fund (or not).. which means that they really control the TIP.

    There is no way that the average person can understand all of this. There is an entire industry of people whose careers are focused on how MPOs work… The local elected have no clue either. They are dependent on the MPO staff to tell them what they “can do” or not.

    however.. MPOs..must do certain things by law including two things:

    One is called a Unified Work Plan and the other is called a Public Participation Plan.

    Citizen groups who take the time to understand the process can strongly assert themselves at the MPO level.

    The Feds actually designed the MPOs this way on purpose… to ensure public participation BECAUSE the folks in charge were not elected.

    For instance, the MPOs are supposed to have a board that consists of citizens.

    They don’t have a direct role in the TIP per se but they can.. in official votes and minutes render recommendations… and counter-recommendations to the Policy Committee.

    Think of them as Planning Commissions in their role. MPOs would have you believe that these folks are appointed by each local jurisdiction (like they do with the Policy Committee) but go read the UWP and PPP and you’ll see.. that their mandate is to accommodate ANY citizen group that represents a constituency user of transportation.

    okay.. long story short..

    The MPOs are not going to go away..no matter what happens to the TAs and in the end.. the MPO holds most of the decisions anyhow.

  9. James Atticus Bowden Avatar
    James Atticus Bowden

    The issue remains to repeal the part of HB 3202 that creates the HRTA for Hampton Roads/Tidewater.

    That is the bill (HB 829) which needs a committee vote.

    Tell the 15 House Delegates to be so kind as to vote on it. The Commonwealth is watching, or at least the Conservatives are.

  10. Anonymous Avatar

    I understand that much of H.B. 3202is a polyglot mess and that some of the projects prioritized for HRTA funding are certainly questionable.

    Having said that, what, then, should be done to tackle the serious congestion problems in Hampton Roads, particularly the bridge-tunnels. How would you pay for a third-crossing? Or widening I-64?

    Peter Galuszka

  11. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Well first off, HRBT isn’t on the upgrade list. Neither is the death trap intersection at I64-264. So the short answer is that none of these projects are going to tackle any congestion where it is the worst.

    The SE Parkway will actually make things totally screwed up because it dumps heavy traffic into a Chesapeake interchange that is already jammed at 168. It’s a road that is obsolete because growth in Chesapeake has already moved too far south. The SEP should be routed down to Hickory, where a loop to western Ches. is planned for the future, making the SEP a direct shot to 460/664/58/17 instead of the convoluted plan they have now.

    There are people who claim the Midtown tunnel will relieve congestion, but I have my doubts once the state’s new port facility on Craney Island comes on line.

    What the HRTA wants is a new interstate running along the bay from Norfolk to I664, which just happens to interconnect with all the state owned ports. This is the infamous third crossing, and is going to eat up all the funds. It’s a well known fact that during hurricane season and other high wind events the tunnels are closed, and so too will this new over water interstate. If the ports need this road, then they should pay for it.

    The only road that even makes any sense at all is 460, because it doesn’t have bridges or over water crossings. And it will be the only route that actually relieves the pressure of cross channel traffic by those vehicles exiting the region. More importantly, with a direct shot to Hickory and the SEP, the Outer Banks and Redneck Riviera crowd isn’t clogging up the roads and tunnels in the urban loops.

    So first on my list is scrap the overwater crap and use the money on projects that actually address the congestion issues, starting with 460. Oh.. We are supposed to do all this without the HRTA? Well too bad, that’s a done deal and it isn’t going away no matter how many politicians we kick to the curb.The decree has already been issued.

  12. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    so… why do I have this nagging feeling that the “how will you pay for the infrastructure you do feel you need?” question was not answered?



    could we please get an answer?

  13. Darrell -- Chesapeake Avatar
    Darrell — Chesapeake

    Which part of done deal was misunderstood? Does anyone really believe that the HRTA is going away? The only thing we can do now is change the priority list. Evidently there are a bunch of cities over on the north side that are beginning to agree with me.


  14. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    yeah.. I caught that story… fascinating…

    but then what’s another 2, 3 or 5 Billion dollars on top of all the other projects needed

    and I caught the part about the ports doing a study that showed that they contributed how many billions in taxes and fees?

    How do folks down that way feel about PPTA Toll projects?

    I forgot to mention… the REAL Plan… is your MPOs CLRP – and that plan remains the actual plan .. with or without your TA.



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