17 01 2010



MPO to TPO: A Change For The Better

1 06 2009

For those of you that have not heard, our MPO is becoming our TPO among other changes. If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, relax; you are in the majority. Let me explain it. ‘MPO’ stands for Metropolitan Planning Organization. What does it do? Nobody ever really knew. Its stated purpose had something to do with transportation but aside for reprinting wish-lists full of roads, they didn’t really do much. I’m not sure that they knew what they were there for either. Seriously though, the MPO is a federally required organization whose purpose is to prioritize and fight for regional transportation projects.

Regardless of what it was supposed to be doing for the past 18 years (1991 was when the Peninsula MPO and the Southside MPO merged in order to, get this, increase regional cooperation), it is going through some changes. These changes were mandated by the Federal Highway Administration. First, they will change their name from MPO to TPO, or Transportation Planning Organization, which is substantially less vague than MPO. Most of the other changes involve increasing transparency, which, until recently was as clear as mud. A few of these changes include a public comment period at the beginning of each meeting (which apparently never existed before), a freight hauler’s advisory committee and a citizen advisory committee.

To give an example of how weak our MPO has been in the past compared to other MPOs, the group Future of Hampton Roads released a few statistics. Apparently, in the most recent state budget cuts, Hampton Roads’ new construction budget fell 31% while Northern Virginia’s fell only 19%. Even more alarming is the fact that funding for interstate projects alone fell 72% in Hampton Roads and only 1% in Northern Virginia. Maybe the discrepancy is due to our superior quality roads here in Hampton Roads. Yeah right. The real reason Hampton Roads has such a large number of off-road, jacked-to-the-sky pickups and SUVs is so they can climb out of the potholes on I-64 on their way to work. The reason our funding fell so much is directly due to our weak regional institutions. Northern Virginia’s MPO has always had multiple members of the Legislature on the board. This way they can take concerns to the State first-hand with authority, unlike Hampton Roads, which has always sat by the front door crying to the Legislature crying to the members like an 8-year-old with a ridiculous Christmas List.

I am glad that we are finally making these changes. Hopefully Hampton Roads can pull out of our transportation cul-de-sac and take its rightful place as a leader in the State and the Nation.

VB Light Rail Petition

25 05 2009

Please sign the petition to the City of Virginia Beach to bring light rail into VB. You can find the petition here.

Virginia Beach Light Rail Poll

25 05 2009

I have created a new poll, asking people to take sides on the expansion of light rail in Virginia Beach. Please click the VB Light rail page above, or follow this link.

A Travesty for Cyclists

8 05 2009

Virginia Beach Police have decided not to press charges on the driver that struck and killed a bicyclist in April on Shore Drive. Even though the pilot reports:

Hersh, an avid cyclist on his Sunday morning ride, was apparently following traffic laws by pedaling east in the right travel lane – not the turn lane – on Shore Drive near Starfish Road in the early light shortly before 6 a.m., when a Ford Explorer struck him from behind. He was wearing a helmet and a bright yellow windbreaker with reflective strips, [Commonwealth’s Attorney] Bryant said.

In other words, this lady did not see a bike in her lane even though the rider was wearing a bright reflective jacket? If she cannot see that, she should not be driving. Period. Furthermore:

The woman was cooperative, and she realized she had hit a bicyclist only after she felt the impact, stopped and saw Hersh’s body

Really? This man was wearing a reflective jacket and she could not see him until she felt the impact and stopped to check what it was? She had to have known that she hit somebody. She can’t be that … inattentive. The police said that they could not find evidence that she hit him through negligent driving. How about section § 46.2-839 in the Virginia Code? This code says:

Any driver of any vehicle overtaking a bicycle … proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a reasonable speed at least two feet to the left of the overtaken bicycle … and shall not again proceed to the right side of the highway until safely clear of such overtaken bicycle…

If she had been observing this law, she would not have hit him. It would have been impossible. She would have slowed down and moved over. Wait. She said she didn’t see him. Was it foggy? No, she would have slowed for inclement conditions. Was it stormy? No, same situation. The weather was clear. She had to have seen him. If she didn’t she was distracted by something. The Police checked cell phone record etc. but look around you sometime on the highway. There are people reading the paper, eating, shaving, putting on makeup, changing the radio, writing, and any number of other things that should not be done while driving. If the lane was too narrow to pass the bike, she should have observed the definition of “substandard width lane” in § 46.2-905, which states that a substandard width lane is “a lane too narrow for a bicycle … and another vehicle to pass safely side by side within the lane.” This driver should lose her license. I keep hearing people say that he shouldn’t have been riding his bike down Shore Drive. Is there another, safer road that parallels Shore Drive? Anybody else remember 2006? You know, when Virginia Beach was called “Bicycle Friendly?” Apparently they are only friendly if you are on an exercise bike in a gym. Normally, I’m not much to sue people, but I hope that this cyclist’s family sues the driver for everything she’s worth. Sue the city too. “Bicycle Friendly” is false advertising.

Midtown Tunnel Meeting – A Review

23 04 2009
Mayor Fraim Speaks to the IRP

Mayor Fraim Speaks to the IRP

Yesterday, I attended and spoke at the Midtown Tunnel Public Meeting at Norfolk’s City Hall. Overall, I was more impressed with the speaking members of the public than I was with the board. Unlike other public meetings, which are designed to address the public’s concerns, this one was intended to be a one-way meeting. In other words, people got up to speak. After ever member of the public had spoken, the board thanked everyone for showing up and dismissed the meeting. There was a fairly good turnout amongst the public, however, only twelve spoke. Of those twelve, eight (66%) spoke against the high proposed tolls. Six of the eight said that they were not completely against all tolls, just outrageous tolls. Mayor Fraim, the first to speak, said that the residents of Hampton Roads “should not be billed twice,” referring to the method of taxing the region and then charging them, in full, for the cost of a State highway. The mayor also called for the State to contribute. The third speaker (I failed to catch his name), called the practice of “Congestion Pricing*” another word for price gouging and stated that in any other situation, it would be illegal. The fourth speaker, a Mr. Henry Schreiber, called for the state to contribute and called the high toll a “disservice to [Hampton Roads] and the State of Virginia.” There were a couple of residents from “Raleigh Row**,” who wanted to make sure that there would be no disruption to their century old homes. A good quarter of the speakers called for the Midtown Project to include room for a future Light Rail extension. There were no speakers that were against a Light Rail capacity for the tunnel project. Towards the end, a Mr. Edward Ellis spoke, asking the board to question the company’s profit margin for the project. He also called for a cap on tolls, to prevent the company from raising them once it received approval.

There will be two additional meetings in the coming months. The first is at the Norfolk City Hall on May 13th from 6-9 PM. This will be the Financial Presentation. The second and final meeting will take place on June 10th, from 6-9 PM at Portsmouth City Hall. There will be no more public comment sessions.

* Congestion Pricing = Tolls increase in relation to the traffic on the highway. In other words, the toll is cheap in off hours and high in rush hours.
**Raleigh Row = The Last row of houses left over from the old Atlantic City, a section of Norfolk torn down to make room for the Hospital Complex.

^^For those interested: Raleigh Row^^

^^For those interested: Raleigh Row^^

Midtown Tunnel Meetings

21 04 2009

For anybody interested (and you should be), the Midtown Tunnel Project’s Independent Review Panel (IRP) will hold their two public comment meetings today (Tuesday) and tomorrow (Wednesday). These will be the only two meetings where public comments will be accepted. If you have absolutely any concerns, you should attend one of the two meetings. Information is as follows:

Date: Tuesday, April 21, 2009
5 – 9 PM
Location: City of Portsmouth Council Chambers, 801 Crawford Street, 6th Floor City of Portsmouth, VA 23704

Date: Wednesday: April 22, 2009
6 – 9 PM
Location: City of Norfolk Council Chambers, 810 Union Street, 11th Floor Norfolk, VA 23510

REMEMBER! These are THE ONLY TWO MEETINGS where you can submit you comments.

For more information, visit