Consistent with the response to Question 11, the Preferred Alternative could have been a combination of OISs from the different alternatives under consideration in order to balance cost, impacts, and the alternative’s ability to meet the Purpose and Need, resulting in a hybrid alternative not evaluated as a stand-alone alternative in the Draft SEIS. If decision makers selected a hybrid alternative as the Preferred Alternative, it would have been fully documented in the Final SEIS.
The SEIS includes impact information broken down by OISs to inform the development of potential hybrid alternatives (Appendix A).
After the publication of the Draft SEIS, there was a 45-day public comment period, in accordance with 40 CFR 1506.10. This comment period included Location Public Hearings that provided an opportunity for the public to review and discuss the results of the study with study team members. Following the comment period, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) was briefed on the study. On December 7, 2016, the CTB identified Alternative A as the Preferred Alternative for the HRCS. Following the publication of this Final SEIS, VDOT anticipates requesting a ROD from FHWA to conclude the NEPA process. FHWA will only issue a ROD to complete the NEPA process for improvements that are fully funded for construction in the region’s Long-Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). More detail is provided in Section 2.2 of this Final SEIS.
Since publication of the Draft SEIS, the CTB identified Alternative A as the Preferred Alternative for the HRCS. Collaboration among VDOT, FHWA, and the Study’s Federal Cooperating Agencies (the USACE, the USEPA, the FTA, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US Navy, and the USCG), as well as unanimous support by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO) and the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC), informed CTB's decision. HRTAC set aside $4.031 Billion, in year of expenditure dollars, for a Preferred Alternative in the HRTPO LRTP (HRTPO January 19, 2017 Board Meeting Notes, Item #13). FHWA can only issue a ROD to complete the NEPA process for improvements that are fully funded for construction in the region’s LRTP.
The HRTPO and HRTAC boards, which are composed of all of the localities along the Study Area Corridors, unanimously endorsed Alternative A as their preferred alternative on October 20, 2016. Following this action and in accordance with the Coordination Plan for the study, on November 14, 2016 VDOT requested USACE’s comment and/or concurrence that Alternative A could be considered the preliminary Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA). Per the Coordination Plan, on November 16, 2016 USACE and the other federal Cooperating Agencies concurred or did not disagree to recommend Alternative A as the Preferred Alternative. Following this concurrence and in response to VDOT’s request, on December 2, 2016, USACE stated that it found no reason to disagree that Alternative A may be considered the preliminarily LEDPA. This correspondence is included in Appendix D.
16. WHAT IS THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE?
The Preferred Alternative follows the alignment and recommended improvements included in Alternative A as it was described in the Draft SEIS, with slight modifications to minimize and avoid impacts. Since the Draft SEIS, slight modifications in the proposed alignment have been developed and are documented in Chapter 2 of this Final SEIS. These modifications include a commitment made by VDOT that there would be no permanent acquisition of Hampton University property. This has resulted in limiting the proposed limits of disturbance (LOD) along the university property and the identification of an Inventory Corridor in which the Preferred Alternative may be constructed over water. Impacts assumed within this Inventory Corridor as part of this SEIS do not represent a design commitment but a planning-level estimate that would be refined through more detailed design.
Other changes to Alternative A included in the Preferred Alternative include a commitment by VDOT to avoid the Willoughby Boat Ramp and to avoid any permanent acquisition of Navy property.
17. COULD THE IMPROVEMENTS ANALYZED IN THE SEIS BUT NOT INCLUDED IN THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE BE CONSIDERED IN THE FUTURE?
Alternative A does not propose improvements to I-564, I-664, VA 164, or the Bower’s Hill (I-664 / I-264 / I-664 / US 460) Interchange, which were included in Alternatives B, C, and D in the Draft SEIS. VDOT continues to coordinate with HRTPO, HRTAC, USACE, the Navy, and the USCG to identify acceptable transportation improvements that could be made in the vicinity of the large number of federal properties in the study area. HRTPO has set aside funding to continue to study the crossing of the Elizabeth River and improvements to these other study area corridors which were considered in the HRCS Draft SEIS but not selected for implementation. These future decisions will be the subject of separate feasibility and NEPA studies.
18. IS TRANSIT BEING CONSIDERED?
The Draft SEIS and this Final SEIS discuss how transit could be included in each alternative. The Preferred Alternative includes additional capacity through which existing and future transit operations could benefit. As part of its comments on the Draft SEIS, the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit (DRPT) recommended that the capacity expansion in the Preferred Alternative be in the form of user/vehicle or price-restricted lanes. Such restrictions may incentivize transit usage and provide mobility options for low-income populations that commute across Hampton Roads waterway. DRPT also recommends that the Preferred Alternative accommodate some form of preferential treatment for transit services to ensure competitive transit travel times and greater transit reliability. In its identification of the Preferred Alternative, CTB did not identify a specific management option such as high-occupancy toll (HOT) or HOV lanes. It is acknowledged, that such an option could be identified during the more detailed design phases that would follow an FHWA ROD. If, during these phases, a management option is identified, the CTB would be briefed on it and have the opportunity to approve it before it was advanced further. Such an option, if approved, would meet DRPT’s recommendations for addressing transit within the Preferred Alternative.
19. WILL THERE BE TOLLS?
The alternatives in the SEIS were developed to accommodate general purpose lanes, HOV lanes, HOT lanes, or lanes tolled/managed in other ways. In its resolution of December 7, 2016, the CTB indicated that the board would be briefed on and have the opportunity to endorse a managed lane concept should it be identified and the appropriate analysis and financial plans are in place. As of the publication of this Final SEIS, a managed lane strategy for the Preferred Alternative, such as HOT or HOV lanes, has not yet been determined. Regardless, the HRTPO LRTP does not rely on toll revenues to construct the project. If tolls were to be utilized, it is expected that they would be limited to HOT lanes along the newly constructed lanes provided by the Preferred Alternative. In 2016, the General Assembly passed HB1069, which requires General Assembly approval before tolls can be placed on existing facilities.
20. HOW WOULD TRAFFIC ON THE HRBT AND MMMBT CHANGE?
The impact to traffic volumes on the HRBT and MMMBT depends on the alternative under consideration. In general, travel demand across Hampton Roads is projected to increase between now and 2040. This increased travel demand will result in increases in daily traffic on both the HRBT and the MMMBT even without any improvements (No-Build Alternative).
When capacity is added on either the HRBT or MMMBT, traffic will tend to shift to the facility with the most capacity. Under Alternatives A and B, the HRBT would see additional increases in traffic daily volume compared to No-Build conditions, while traffic volumes on the MMMBT would decrease slightly. Conversely, traffic volumes would decrease on the HRBT and would increase on the MMMBT under Alternative C, compared to No-Build conditions. Under Alternative D, which includes widening on both the HRBT and the MMMBT, the overall increase in traffic volumes would be spread between the two bridge-tunnels, and traffic volumes on both the HRBT and MMMBT are projected to be higher than those under No-Build conditions.
Since publication of the Draft SEIS, Alternative A has been identified as the Preferred Alternative. The Preferred Alternative does not propose improvements to I-664 or the MMMBT, which were included in Alternatives C and D in the Draft SEIS. Though these improvements are not included in the Preferred
Alternative for the HRCS SEIS, they remain regional priorities. HRTPO has set aside funding to continue to study these other corridors which were considered in the HRCS Draft SEIS. These future decisions will be the subject of separate feasibility and NEPA studies.
21. WOULD REGIONAL TRAFFIC PATTERNS CHANGE?
Regional traffic patterns would change in concert with the shift in traffic between the HRBT and MMMBT. With the capacity increase at the HRBT under the Preferred Alternative, the planning level traffic analysis used for the SEIS indicates a shift in crossing volume from the MMMBT to the HRBT compared to the No-Build Alternative. At the same time, local roadways that parallel the section of I-64 that would be widened could experience traffic volume reductions as drivers would choose to travel on improved roadways with better travel conditions.
22. WHAT IMPACTS ARE ANTICIPATED TO RESULT FROM THE ALTERNATIVES?
Potential environmental consequences of the Preferred Alternative are similar to Alternative A, with slight modifications to further reduce environmental consequences.
The NEPA study evaluates a reasonable range of alternatives and allowed for hybrid or new alternatives to be identified. The analysis of these alternatives presents the worst-case impact for the area within the determined LOD. The impacts provided throughout the SEIS and are summarized in Table S-1. These impacts are preliminary and are based on the current planning-level engineering which is appropriate for the NEPA analysis.
Furthermore, an Inventory Corridor has been developed to indicate the area in which the Preferred Alternative may be constructed over water. Impacts assumed within this Inventory Corridor, as part of this SEIS, do not represent a design commitment but a planning-level estimate that would be refined through more detailed design. Following the issuance of a ROD from FHWA, design refinements would be explored as the project moves into final design and extend into the permitting stages to minimize impacts to sensitive environmental, cultural, or community resources.
23. HOW MUCH WILL EACH ALTERNATIVE COST?
Planning–level cost estimates included in the Draft SEIS reported Alternative A would cost approximately $3.3 billion, which included a 40% contingency. Although there have been some refinements to the engineering that informed this planning-level cost estimate, the $3.3 billion estimate is still applicable to the Preferred Alternative.
24. WHEN WILL THE PREFERRED ALTERNATIVE BE CONSTRUCTED?
As of the publication of this Final SEIS and assuming that FHWA issues a ROD, VDOT anticipates issuing a Request for Proposals in 2018 with a contract award occurring in 2019. Future updates and information will be made available on the VDOT website.
25. HOW HAS THE PUBLIC BEEN INVOLVED IN THE STUDY?
Public input has been solicited since the study began and will continue throughout the study process. As part of the NOI to prepare the SEIS (published in June 2015), FHWA solicited input on issues that should be considered in the study. At the same time, VDOT initiated scoping to gather information from a variety of local, state, and Federal agencies and the public. Two rounds of Citizen Information Meetings were held in July and December of 2015 to present the public with study information and to solicit feedback on the conduct of the study, Purpose and Need, and alternatives to be retained for analysis. Email updates have been regularly sent to a study mailing list which includes citizens who have requested more information on the study. The project website, www.HamptonRoadsCrossingStudy.org,
has been regularly updated with study information, public meeting materials, and various technical studies and documents. The website also provides the public with an option to submit comments to VDOT at any time. EPA issued a Notice of Availability for the Draft SEIS in the Federal Register to notify the public that the document is available for review and comment, and VDOT has used a number of strategies to notify the public of the document’s availability. VDOT conducted Location Public Hearings within the 45-day comment period for the Draft SEIS (held on September 7 and 8, 2016). Postcards were mailed to over 140,000 property owners 30 days before the hearing. Given the significance of the HRCS, this mailing exceeded state code requirements by notifying all properties within each zip code that intersects the study area corridors. In addition to the mailings, an email blast was sent to the project mailing list; a notification of the meeting was posted to VDOT’s website and included in other social media outreach; and the meeting was advertised in local newspapers 30 days and 15 days prior to the hearing. Further, the overall document release schedule has been publicly available and shared through email blasts, community meetings, HRTPO briefings, and through the study website since the study began in 2015.
26. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES HAVE BEEN PROVIDED FOR AGENCIES TO BE ENGAGED IN THE STUDY?
At the onset of the study agencies and localities were invited to be Participating and Cooperating Agencies (see details provided in Appendix C [Coordination Plan]). FHWA and VDOT have held and will continue to hold regular meetings with the Cooperating Agencies to keep them informed and engaged as the study progresses. The Federal Cooperating Agencies have been asked to provide written concurrence on the various study elements including: Purpose and Need, Alternatives Considered, and the recommended Preferred Alternative/preliminary LEDPA. The Cooperating Agencies have reviewed drafts of the supporting technical documents and the SEIS. VDOT and FHWA have also had a number of meetings with the Participating Agencies and have afforded them an opportunity to review and comment on the Purpose and Need of the project as well as the Alternatives Considered. Finally, VDOT has briefed other agencies, localities, and groups as the study has progressed.
Since the publication of the Draft SEIS, VDOT has coordinated with the Cooperating Agencies to keep them informed on the progress of the study and seek the federal Cooperating Agencies’ concurrence on a recommended Preferred Alternative (see Chapter 6 for more detail). VDOT has also coordinated with the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to execute a Section 106 Programmatic Agreement for the study (see Appendix I for more detail). All agency comments received during the 45-day comment period on the Draft SEIS, including at the Location Public Hearing, were considered and all substantive comments are addressed in Appendix H of this Final SEIS.
27. WHAT OPPORTUNITIES FOR PUBLIC COMMENT WERE THERE ON THIS SUPPLEMENTAL EIS?
The public was notified when the Draft SEIS would be available for public review via local newspapers, other media outlets, postcards, email blasts, community meetings, and the Federal Register. The comment period for the Draft SEIS was August 5, 2016 through September 19, 2016. Pursuant to 40 CFR 1506.10 and 23 CFR 771.123(i), the public (including local, state, and Federal public agencies) were provided at least 45 calendar days to review and provide comments on the Draft SEIS after the Federal Register notice. VDOT also held Location Public Hearings on September 7 and 8, 2016, approximately 30 days following the Federal Register notice, pursuant to 40 CFR 1506.6(c) and 23 CFR 771.111(h). Comments were submitted to VDOT electronically using the project website
or at the Location Public Hearing by oral testimony or written comment form. Additional information regarding how to comment was included in the public notices.
Just over 600 comments were received during the 45-day comment period on the Draft SEIS. All comments received during the comment period, including at the Location Public Hearing, were considered, and all substantive comments are addressed in Appendix H of this Final SEIS.
28. WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
This Final SEIS has been prepared to document the Preferred Alternative and respond to substantive comments received on the Draft SEIS. Following the publication of this Final SEIS, VDOT will request a ROD from FHWA. Issuance of the ROD is anticipated to occur in the summer of 2017. This will complete the NEPA process and allow VDOT to advance with more detailed design and procurement activities.