Report from City Hall – The Road(s) to Somewhere…

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ritter150By Council Member Debbie Ritter

2013 has been the “Year of Transportation” in Virginia. There has been much discussion about the decisions made to improve roads and bridges in the Commonwealth, and we can anticipate much more discussion in the future.

Chesapeake has a compelling record of accomplishment in improving our roads and bridges. It’s difficult to remember traveling without I-664, the Monitor Merrimac Bridge Tunnel and 464. Looking back 15 years to a time when many of our 86 bridges in the City were past their design lifespan, Route 17 was considered one of the most dangerous roads in the country and Battlefield Boulevard South was gridlocked every weekend during the summer. We might even say Chesapeake’s efforts have been, and continue to be, remarkable.

The City has been able to forge great partnerships with both federal and state officials to move forward major projects that have helped to make traveling easier for our citizens and to strengthen one of the important draws for business – our central location in the region and our access to the interstate highways. We have been blessed with a dedicated group of city staff members who work tirelessly to improve our transportation corridors. And we sure can’t forget our “bulldogs” on City Council who never believe that success is impossible to achieve.

There’s a story of trials and tribulations behind almost every project. But those roadblocks (no pun intended) have led to improvements even the most optimistic could only dream about: the new Great Bridge Bridge, the Oak Grove Connector and Chesapeake Expressway, Moses Grandy Trail, George Washington Highway, Route 17 and the Dismal Swamp Canal Trail.  There is also the privately funded new South Norfolk Jordan Bridge and the relocation of railroad lines from the neighborhoods of Western Branch to the center of the Western Freeway and I-664. The Gilmerton Bridge replacement is nearing completion. The Steel Bridge/ Dominion Blvd. project is underway and the Portsmouth Blvd. extension to the Suffolk City line is in final design. Many of our bridges have been replaced or refurbished.

Not resting on the accomplishments to date, we’re now aggressively pursuing improvements to the High Rise Bridge and I-64 from the 464 interchange to Bowers Hill, replacement of the 22nd Street Bridge, and the extension of Woodlake Drive from Greenbrier Parkway to Battlefield Blvd. We continue to work with the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal government to fund the Deep Creek Lock Bridge replacement.

You hear a lot about government setting priorities. That is something we should be proud of in Chesapeake. These improvements have been paid for without tax increases. Tough decisions have been made to have two toll roads – but in both instances viable, alternative routes exist. Wherever possible we have utilized safety and congestion mitigation grants to help pay for projects. Many of these projects have been planned for as we also funded an unprecedented number of new school facilities.

Are we “there” yet?  No. Are we well on our way? Yes.

Finally, and most importantly, thank you to the people who live and work in Chesapeake for your patience and support. You truly make everything possible!

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