Gov. McAuliffe: Hampton Roads transportation is top priority

Posted at 11:24 PM, Feb 07, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-08 06:42:27-05

Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaking is exclusively to NewsChannel 3 on his priorities as Virginia's new governor.

He says what's holding back Hampton Roads is the same thing that's causing you headaches on your commute: traffic.

"We have to unlock the Hampton Roads region. If we're going to grow, we have to fix transportation. We're going to work on it every single day," Governor McAuliffe said.

The governor lowered the tolls at the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels that went into effect this week.

Now he's looking at eliminating the 50 cent a month maintenance fee E-Z pass charges its users in the Commonwealth.

"Everything related to tolls has got to make common sense. It's got to be pragmatic. It's got to be fair," Gov. McAuliffe said.

While his efforts are appreciated, it would only save EZ Pass users six bucks a year, a drop in the bucket to the $500 a year a daily commuter would cost going through the tolls.

McAuliffe wasn't in power to agree to the tolls, and he's trying to alleviate their affect on drivers.

Elizabeth River Crossing, which operates the tunnels, sets the toll rate to make 13.5 percent profit every year.

If it goes over, the excess profits are split with the company and state, with Virginia's share going back into the transportation budget, but not specifically being earmarked for tolls.

"The surplus money down the road,I would look in to putting them in the region, I think that's important."

The Governor wouldn't commit to using that extra money to further subsidize tolls, and save drivers money.

Hampton Roads congestion guru Aubrey Layne was appointed Secretary of Transportation.

The Governor says the two have been working on setting a priority list of projects for the state and region.

He wouldn't divulge those plans, though just saying they'll be announced soon.
He did express concern on U.S. Route 460 in Suffolk, a 55-mile project to Petersburg that hasn't had all of its parts approved by the Army Corps of Engineers.

"What if they don't permit and we've spent tens of millions of dollars on a road that can't be completed."

Governor McAuliffe added that no more taxpayer money will go to the plan until it's a total go.