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Hampton Roads leaders target transit, transportation projects with billions in new federal funds

Representatives Bobby Scott and Elaine Luria visited Hampton Roads Transit on Friday, discussing expanded routes and the ongoing shift to more electric buses

NORFOLK, Va. — Virginia leaders are planning how to invest billions of dollars for transit and transportation improvements as part of the new $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure bill.

Representatives Bobby Scott and Elaine Luria visited Hampton Roads Transit Friday, where HRT leaders briefed them on plans to expand routes and speed up a shift to an electric bus fleet with access to the newly-designated federal funds.

Scott and Luria rode on a battery-powered bus and viewed a maintenance and charging station during the stop.

“Only 2% of our region uses public transit and that’s because we have a fragmented system," said William Harrell, HRT President and CEO. "We think we could double that over the next five years with improvement in the system.”

HRT plans to add 13 bus routes and new service on both the Peninsula and the Southside by 2024, while adding more battery-powered buses and charging stations.

“Hopefully it’ll be in coordination with the Dominion Energy wind energy so people will be on buses powered by wind energy," said Congressman Scott.

Rep. Luria said the infrastructure package will provide about $7 billion for Virginia highway improvements. 

She said major bridge repairs and upgrades at the Port of Virginia are other large targets, but the money isn’t restricted to the biggest projects.

“There’s so much more, some of our projects like Nimmo Parkway in Virginia Beach, we’re advocating for a raise grant for that," she said. "I just talked with Secretary Buttigieg the other day to emphasize how important that is."

Rep. Scott said the federal funding could give the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion a boost.

"It’s a project that’s being built mostly with state funds right now, we’ll be able to speed that up with federal funds."

HRT leaders said they want to double the number of people using public transit in the next few years by hiring more drivers, adding routes and creating more frequent stops.

"People will get out of their cars if they know the next bus is coming in 15 minutes, that’s a gamechanger for the 757," Harrell said.

Scott and Luria said they're working with federal agencies to help bring targeted funds to Hampton Roads for improvement projects, with Scott saying the region is particularly impacted by the bill due to its varied infrastructure.

President Joe Biden is expected to sign the infrastructure package into law on Monday afternoon.

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