Feds Say ‘No’ To Southeastern Parkway

19 04 2009

The Federal Highway Administration has once again nixed the Southeastern Parkway plans due to environmental concerns. This is the fourth time the FHA has denied approval for the $95.2 million per mile toll road. According to the FHA, the 170 acres of wetlands that would be destroyed would be too much damage to the environment for the traffic benefits that we would realize. AGREED. These wetlands that the Southeastern Parkway would cut through are linked to nearly every tributary that we have in Hampton Roads. The Linkhorn Bay, Broad Bay, Lynnhaven Bay, Lynnhaven River, North Landing River, Back Bay, Albemarle Sound, Southern Branch Elizabeth River, Hampton Roads Harbor/Bay, and the Chesapeake Bay ALL would be affected by this new highway.

Chesapeake and Virginia Beach want this highway to fix their traffic created by years of failing to plan. This project has been in the works since the 1980s and has continually failed approval. The project price tag keeps ballooning. A few years ago, the price was estimated at $1 billion (VDOT’s website still states $1 billion on its project page). Today, the Virginian-Pilot reported a $2 billion price tag (if built right now). According to the Final Environmental Impact Study, the estimate is between $2.2 billion and $2.7 billion when we consider inflation for a 2014 construction midpoint. So lets get this right, if built today, this highway would cost $95 million/mile. If we wait for a more reasonable deadline, and assume that construction would be half-completed by 2014, it would cost between $102.8 million and $126.2 million per mile. Remind me again why this is a better option than light rail… Even if we assume the 35% inflation ($2 billion in 2009 to $2.7 billion in 2014), if you use Norfolk’s cost-per-mile for light rail, you could build over 51 miles of light rail. That would be more than sufficient to build the LR to the Beach with enough southward spurs to pick up Oceana, Lynnhaven, Princess Anne, and Greenbrier.Why are we wasting money on building yet another highway? This highway will become congested just like every other highway in Hampton Roads.  In fact, in the “Transportation Capacity” section under “Preferred vs. No Build Comparison,” the paragraph reads:

As with the freeway segments themselves, SEPG will benefit the congestion forecasted on the local street approaches to freeway
interchanges. SEPG will substantially reduce traffic volumes at all approaches, but the reductions will not always result in improvements in service levels, given the thresholds for
the various service level categories. For example, at the Battlefield Boulevard, Greenbrier Parkway and Indian River Road approaches to I-64, the SEPG causes daily volume reductions of 11,500, 7,100 and 13,800 vehicles, respectively. These reductions are not sufficient for improved service levels; the forecasted service levels remain at F on all three roadways. However, some volume reductions do improve the service level. For example, Rosemont Road is reduced by 3,100 vehicles (6.0%), which will improve the service level to from F to E.

Read that again. If you are paying attention, it says that at the Greenbrier, Battlefield, and Indian River Rd. interchanges, the Southeastern Parkway  will not result in a Level-of-Service (LOS)  improvement. Additionally, the best example that they could put for a LOS improvement was Rosemont Road, which would improve from an ‘F’ to an ‘E.’ Is that similar to moving from an ‘F-‘ to an ‘F+’ on a school report card? Are we prepared to spend over $2 billion on a highway whose success is measured by how many fewer hours it will be congested? For the record, the FEIS states that the Southeastern Parkway will be congested 12.9% less and move 11.7% faster during congestion than if we did nothing. In other words, instead of sitting in traffic for an hour at 24 mph, you’d only sit in traffic for 53 minutes at 27 mph.

Is Hampton Roads ready to pay over $2 billion to save 7 minutes on our rush hour commute? I don’t think so. I think we should look at diverting this money to things such as LRT, which can be expanded MUCH easier, quicker, and cheaper than a highway.

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6 responses

19 04 2009
Gray

I was thinking the exact same thing. 50 miles of LRT would be amazing, more efficient & alleviate traffic.

19 04 2009
Gray

You should mention this at your next meeting.

19 04 2009
Brett

I bookmarked your site from seeing you on Urban Planet (I’m jbhay on there). I read about this Pkway a long time ago, and I’m glad to see failing.

More roads do not equal less traffic.

I’m so excited to see light rail in the coming years!

22 04 2009
Michael Ragsdale

While we wait for The Tide to come online for the region…
In the meantime, how about connecting Lynnhaven Parkway to Lynnhaven Parkway and running a bus down it (TCC-Greenbrier)?

22 04 2009
Michael Ragsdale

Building the 1 mile or so of Lynnhaven (Indian River to Centerville) connects the two same areas roughly (Kempsville to Greenbrier)

29 05 2009
Daniel M. Laenker

I’m alarmed at Virginia Beach’s continuing insistence on the Southeastern Sprawlway. This is a $2 billion gift from the Navy and the public to developers’ pockets, using our environment and national security as bargaining chips in a catastrophic real-estate gamble.

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