This year’s Old Dominion University poll “Life in Hampton Roads” has reported that 40 percent of community members avoid doing business in a nearby city because of traffic congestion.
What started as an infrastructure problem may have evolved into an economic problem.
“Clearly there are these bottlenecks which reduce the ability of the regional economy to function when people aren’t able to travel to visit a business because of concerns about traffic. It’s a problem when some of your customers aren’t visiting you because they do not believe they can reach the business without running into significant delays,” Jesse Richman, ODU professor of political science, said of the economic impact of traffic on the community.
Professor Richman is not alone in his belief that transportation congestion plays a negative roll in area commerce. According to the study, 88 percent of respondents felt infrastructure was extremely important or very important to the region’s economic growth.
Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly earmarked funds to improve transportation problems in both northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.
“When you look at studies about what affects our daily lives, transportation appears to be at the top of almost every one of those surveys. The data is compelling and requires all of us to come together and find solutions,” said Dwight Famer, executive director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization.
Another issue addressed in the report was tolls. Sixty-percent of survey respondents were aware of pending tolls coming to bridges and tunnels in Hampton Roads, and half of those polled said they would be less likely to use bridges and tunnels which collected fees.
The downtown and midtown tunnels connecting Portsmouth and Norfolk are the two main tolls. According to the Daily Press, Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright and groups in the community have argued against the tolls claiming it would put an unfair burden on lower-income residents.
However, transportation officials have stated that tolls are needed because the General Assembly’s bill will not cover the total price tag of the infrastructure overhaul.