Norfolk Westside Transit Project and Peninsula Corridor Updates

As part of his 2018 State of the City address, Norfolk Mayor Kenneth C. Alexander encouraged attendees to “Re-Imagine Norfolk” while affirming that the city’s future includes an extension of high-capacity transit to Naval Station Norfolk.

The Norfolk Westside Transit Study and the future environmental review of high-capacity transit to the Navy base will ensure exactly that – a future re-imagined for residents and visitors to Hampton Roads.

In accepting this challenge, Hampton Roads Transit will share in April the results of the Norfolk Westside Transit Study. In it we explored options to the Navy base on the west side of Norfolk that included three modes of service (bus rapid transit, street car and light rail), the projected ridership, major construction considerations, and the projected capital and operating costs.

As you may recall, the initial evaluation framework identified 14 potential routes in the west side study area. Then, through a tiered screening process, they were narrowed to two: an alignment known as Alternative 7 – Monticello/Hampton – and Alternative 12 – Church/Granby.

Alternative 7 would connect with The Tide at Monticello Avenue and Charlotte Street, just north of the Monticello light rail station. Continuing north along Monticello, the alignment would then split to a one-way couplet, with the northbound/westbound vehicles traveling on 27th Street and the southbound/eastbound vehicles on 26th Street. It would then turn north onto Hampton Boulevard, pass Old Dominion University, and cross the Lafayette River ending at Naval Station Norfolk near Gates 1 and 2.

Alternative 12, Church/Granby would begin at the intersection of The Tide with St. Pauls Boulevard and Plume Street, west of the Civic Plaza Tide light rail station. It would proceed north on St. Pauls Boulevard, east to Fenchurch Street, and then north on Church and Granby streets, past Wards Corner, until it reaches W. Bay Avenue. The alignment would split to a one-way couplet at W. Bay Avenue for south/eastbound vehicles and W. Ocean Avenue for north/westbound vehicles. The alignments would rejoin and follow W. Bay Avenue to the end of line at Naval Station Norfolk, Gate 4.

The Tier 2 process, using Alternatives 7 and 12, evaluated baseline conceptual engineering and street configurations and focused on the need to enhance mobility and access to the Navy Base. Key items evaluated included the effects on existing and projected traffic, ridership forecasting, environmental considerations, projected flooding and resiliency concerns, while also ensuring that the alternatives are consistent with the city’s long-range plans.

Critical to the process is to help Norfolk make a fiscally responsible transit investment, with a focus on projected capital, operating and maintenance costs, and to ensure that the alternative selected can effectively compete for federal funds.

Through analysis and evaluation, we found challenges and complexities that will impact either alignment. They were found in the need to build structures over the Norfolk Southern Railroad and under Dominion Energy transmission lines, a complex phased-construction to minimize impacts on major city streets, ensure continued access to the base, new bridges over the Lafayette River because the existing ones will not support light rail, and right-of-way constraints anticipated to affect major intersections.

Flooding and resiliency present significant long-term challenges. Segments of the proposed alignments would be permanently inundated by three feet of water in 2070, and six feet by 2100.  Therefore, as we conclude the evaluation of the west side alternatives, we will have to consider if a no-build solution is the best recommendation to make.

As we finalize the Norfolk Westside Transit Study, we are also beginning the next phase of project development, which will be the environmental review process (DEIS) for the east side of Norfolk.

The DEIS work is scheduled to begin in Fall 2018 and, as required by the Federal Transit Administration, it will further evaluate high-capacity transit on Norfolk’s east side, including alternatives along Military Highway, E. Little Creek Road and Terminal Boulevard. The east side study will include areas where Norfolk has included light rail as a key component in its vision for the areas in the Military Circle/Military Highway Urban Development Area and near JANAF Shopping Center.

Reimagining our region can extend beyond Norfolk. The Peninsula Corridor Study concluded in the winter of 2018. Hampton and Newport News approved resolutions in support of HRT moving forward into the environmental review process for Alternative 3, which would run along Jefferson Avenue, and Alternative 6, along Mercury Boulevard, or a potential combination of both.

In the Summer of 2018 staff will begin this process to include a visioning component so that city residents can imagine and physically see a future of bus rapid transit along the Peninsula.  As we work to meet the federal requirements for eventual funding of a high-capacity corridor on the Peninsula, we will also continue to demonstrate how BRT will help promote Peninsula growth and create a more desirable place for residents to live, work and play.

As one of the only transit agencies of our size with bus, ferry and light rail, HRT has staged itself to be an integral regional partner in reimagining Hampton Roads for all.

William Harrell
President & CEO, Hampton Roads Transit