'We have to start now'; Local leaders plan for infrastructure improvements

Congresswoman Luria.jpg
Posted at 4:56 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 18:43:54-05

NORFOLK, Va. - From bridges and roads to ports and buses, bold changes are coming to Hampton Roads' infrastructure.

One of the facilities that will be seeing upgrades is the Hampton Roads Transit system. On Friday morning, Reps. Elaine Luria and Bobby Scott met at HRT's headquarters to discuss the future of infrastructure and brainstorm how federal funding can help.

"We're trying to do everything that we can to bring even more public transportation here and help people get from home to work and all the things that they need to do on a daily basis," Luria said.

President Biden is expected to sign the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill in the coming days. Local leaders said the money will then be poured directly into Hampton Roads.

The legislation covers a number of infrastructure investments, including airports, ports, bridges, tunnels, roadways and transit systems — all of which are present in Hampton Roads.

"There's going to be $7 million for highways for Virginia and about $500 million for bridges and tunnels. We're also expecting to see additional funding for the port infrastructure, which is incredibly important," Luria said.

In addition to filling the 90 open bus driver positions, which pay $18 an hour, HRT has big plans for future projects.

William Harrell, the president and CEO of HRT, said, "[Riders] are going to see, over the next two years, improvements to facilities. They're going to see more shelters, they're going to see better technology. We want [their] ride with Hampton Roads Transit to improve."

He said pre-pandemic, an average of 45,000 people took the buses each day, 1,500 took the ferries, 4,900 traveled by light rail and 1,200 rode on paratransit.

Along with 48 new buses to expand service, HRT's goal is to increase amenities. HRT is proposing approximately 623 new bus shelters, benches and trash receptacles, as well as solar lighting. New bus transfer facilities will include dedicated bus pull-offs and operator restrooms.

The improved ride also comes with more electric buses on the fleet, which will be in addition to the six currently in rotation.

"That's one of the goals of the transportation bill is to significantly positively impact the environment. We're looking forward to those investments," Scott said.

Scott said he is confident the money could be coming down in a few months after the localities apply for the grants.

"There shouldn't be a lot of delay in getting money out of Washington," he said.

Harrell added, "We have to start now to make a difference for our riders."