Frequently Asked Questions
In addition to these Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), the Executive Summary of the Draft SEIS is presented in a question and answer format, providing information on many FAQs related to the document.
Overview / Background
1. What led to the original Hampton Roads Crossing Study (HRCS)
In 1991, the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) allocated demonstration funds for “… highway projects demonstrating innovative techniques of highway construction and finance.” The Interstate 64 (I-64) crossing of Hampton Roads was included as one of the innovative projects. As was required at the time, a Major Investment Study (MIS) of the I-64 crossing was completed and published in 1997. The MIS documented an initial review of alternatives to reduce congestion at the I-64 crossing. Following the publication of the MIS, the HRCS Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) was published in 1999. The HRCS Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) was published in 2001, documenting the preferred alternative. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued a Record of Decision (ROD) that same year, completing the NEPA process.
2. What is the HRCS Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)?
The SEIS is a re-evaluation of the 2001 FEIS and ROD. The 2012 Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) DEIS and 2013 Environmental Assessment partial re-evaluation of the HRCS also will be used to inform the HRCS SEIS. These studies were prepared in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and related laws and regulations. This SEIS will revisit and revise the assumptions and data used in the previous studies. The re-evaluation will be based on newly collected data and modern methodologies and techniques. The study will include updated information on natural, historic, and social resources and consider up-to-date engineering and scientific standards. The information made available to the public and decision makers through this study will supplement the previous documentation and provide a current basis for a decision.
3. Why do we need another study?
Before VDOT can advance with detailed design, procurement, or construction of an alternative, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) must make a NEPA decision. While FHWA issued a NEPA decision on the study in 2001, FHWA and VDOT have agreed that enough time has passed that an SEIS is required to reevaluate the assumptions and information that informed this decision.
4. Does the study now take all the proposed studies and put them under one umbrella?
The SEIS is not an umbrella study. Instead, it is informed by and replaces previous studies and decisions, such as the 2001 HRCS FEIS and ROD, the 2003 and 2013 HRCS re-evaluations, and the 2012 Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) DEIS. This SEIS will revisit and revise the assumptions and data used in the previous studies. Since the 2001 study, more information has been collected about the study area and methodologies used to complete NEPA studies have been improved. Therefore, the information made available to the public and decision makers through this study will exceed the previous documentation and provide a more informed decision making tool.
5. Why now?
In 2014, THE Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC) identified the previously identified Preferred Alternative in its list of priority projects. HRTAC provided the proper funding for the study to be documented in the HRTPO Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP). These actions prompted VDOT and FHWA to initiate the SEIS.
Purpose and Need
6. What is a Purpose and Need?
The Purpose and Need documents the conditions FHWA and VDOT aim to address through the HRCS. The Purpose and Need, which is documented in the first chapter of a NEPA document, is essential in establishing a basis for the development of the reasonable range of alternatives required in an EIS and assists with the identification and eventual selection of a Preferred Alternative.
7. Has the Purpose and Need changed since the 2001 FEIS?
As part of the SEIS, FHWA and VDOT are updating the Purpose and Need as described in the 2001 FEIS. This update includes input from the public during Citizen Information Meetings (CIMs), review of updated data and documents, and input from the Cooperating and Participating Agencies. Since 2001, FHWA and VDOT have formalized the outline for a Purpose and Need chapter, therefore the 2013 version also looks different than the 2001 document. The updates to the Purpose and Need are summarized below.
The primary project purpose is to develop and analyze intermodal alternatives that can work together to improve accessibility, mobility, and goods movement in the Hampton Roads metropolitan area to help relieve the congestion that occurs at the existing I-64 Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.
Project Needs Supporting The Project Purpose:
- The combination of the decreasing performance of the transportation system and increasing pressure due to growth in population and employment, emphasizes the need to develop intermodal alternatives that can work together to improve accessibility, mobility, and goods movement in the Hampton Roads area.
- There is a need to address the decreasing performance of the transportation system in a manner which will positively contribute to the most effective utilization of transportation investments that have already been made in the region.
- Of equal importance in planning for transportation needs in the Hampton Roads area is environmental protection and enhancement.
Updated Project Purpose:
The purpose of the HRCS is to relieve congestion at the I-64 HRBT in a manner that improves accessibility, transit, emergency evacuation, and military and goods movement along the primary transportation corridors in the Hampton Roads region, including the I-64, I-664, I-564, and Route 164 corridors. The HRCS will address the following needs (in the order of presentation in the Purpose and Need section):
Project Needs Supporting The Updated Project Purpose:
- Accommodate travel demand – capacity is inadequate on the study area alignments, contributing to congestion at the HRBT;
- Improve transit access – there is a lack of transit access across the Hampton Roads waterway;
- Increase regional accessibility – limited number of water crossings and inadequate highway capacity and severe congestion decrease accessibility;
- Address geometric deficiencies – insufficient vertical and horizontal clearance at the HRBT contribute to congestion;
- Enhance emergency evacuation capability – increase capacity for emergency evacuation, particularly at the HRBT;
- Improve strategic military connectivity – congestion impedes military movement and missions; and,
- Increase access to port facilities – inadequate access to interstate highway travel in the study area impacts regional commerce.
8. What is the status of the Purpose and Need?
Chapter 1 of the SEIS has been drafted and reviewed by FHWA, VDOT, and the Cooperating Agencies. These agencies have concurred on the basic elements of the Purpose and Need, illustrated above in the seven bullets. Following this concurrence, the draft chapter was distributed to all Cooperating and Participating Agencies for review and comment. Based on these comments, the chapter will be revised and incorporated into the SEIS.
9. What Alternatives are being considered?
On January 12, 2016, FHWA, VDOT and the Federal Cooperating Agencies concurred on which alternatives should be retained for analysis in the Draft SEIS. These alternatives are summarized below and illustrated on the study web site.
- Improvements to I-64 from I-664 in Hampton to I-564 in Norfolk
- Improvements would be largely confined to existing right of way
- Provides the same improvements to I-64 as Alternative A
- Improvements to I-564 from I-64 in Norfolk and across the Elizabeth River via a new bridge/tunnel
- New roadway along the east side of Craney Island to Route 164 in Portsmouth
- Improvements to Route 164 to connect to I-664
- Improvements to I-564 from I-64 in Norfolk and across the Elizabeth River via a new bridge/tunnel
- New roadway along the east side of Craney Island to Route 164 in Portsmouth
- Widen I-664 from I-64 in Hampton to I-264 in Chesapeake, including a new crossing parallel to the I-664 MMMBT and between I-664 and I-564, north of Craney Island
- Based on sections that comprise Alternatives B and C
10. Is there a Preferred Alternative?
No. The 2001 FEIS and ROD identified Alternative C as the Preferred Alternative. As part of this re-evaluation, that designation has been removed and all alternatives are being evaluated equally.
11. Will one of the Retained Alternatives be selected as the Preferred Alternative?
Each alternative is anticipated to be comprised of several operationally independent sections. When it comes time to identify a Preferred Alternative, decision makers may decide to implement individual elements of an alternative that balances cost, impacts, and the alternatives effectiveness at meeting the Purpose and Need. The combination of sections could result in a hybrid alternative or sections from multiple alternatives could be linked together to create a new build alternative not evaluated as a stand-alone alternative in the SEIS. Should decision makers select a new or hybrid alternative as the Preferred Alternative, it will be presented in the Final SEIS.
12. How will existing and proposed bridges and tunnels be connected under the different alternatives?
An example of how the existing and proposed tunnels on the HRBT would interact is included on the study web site. A similar layout would be used for alternatives that consider the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT). These layouts will be fully documented in the Draft SEIS.
13. Will the public have the opportunity to influence the alternatives/resources the SEIS focuses on?
Yes, public input has been solicited since the study began and will continue throughout the study process. In June, 2015 FHWA issued a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare the SEIS in the Federal Register. As part of the NOI, FHWA solicited input on issues that should be considered in the study.
During that timeframe, VDOT held CIMs on July 21, 2015 in Norfolk and on July 22, 2015 in Hampton. Comment sheets were made available and were accepted prior to, during, and following the CIMs.
In addition to the comment sheet that was provided at the July 2015 CIMs, an online survey was administered via the study web site and at locations in Hampton Roads. Over 1,300 surveys were completed during this time. The survey included over 50 unique questions designed to gather feedback from people who use the existing facilities and travel in the study area. The results of the survey will inform the SEIS.
In December 2015, two more CIMs were held. On December 9th a CIM was held at Ocean View Elementary School in Norfolk and a second CIM was held on December 10th at Captain John Smith Elementary School in Hampton. At that time, VDOT sought input from the public on alternatives that should be retained for analysis in the SEIS. Comment sheets were made available and were accepted prior to, during, and following these meetings.
Throughout the course of the study, materials from the CIMs, and other project updates may be found on the study web site: www.HamptonRoadsCrossingStudy.org. When future public meetings are scheduled, local newspapers and other media outlets will be used to notify the public. Citizens can stay informed by requesting to be added to the project mailing list on the web site. The web site also provides an option to submit comments to VDOT at any time.
14. When are the next public meetings scheduled?
Over the next several months, VDOT will provide periodic briefings to the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization (HRTPO), HRTAC, local governments, and other groups. Many of these briefings will be conducted in meetings that are open to the public. After the publication of the Draft SEIS (tentatively scheduled for August 2016), Location Public Hearings will be held to present the findings of the study and to solicit input on a Preferred Alternative (tentatively scheduled for September 2016).
15. Will the Draft SEIS be available for public review?
Yes. The public will be notified in local newspapers, on the HRCS web site and mailing list, other media outlets, and the Federal Register when the Draft SEIS is available for public review. Pursuant to 40 CFR 1506.10 and 23 CFR 771.123(i) , the public (including local, state and federal public agencies) will be provided 45 calendar days to review and provide comments on the Draft SEIS after the Federal Register notice. VDOT also will hold Location Public Hearings approximately 30 days following the Federal Register notice pursuant to 40 CFR 1506.6(c) and 23 CFR 771.111(h). The Location Public Hearings will be announced in a similar manner as the availability of the Draft SEIS. Comments may be submitted to VDOT electronically using the project website (www.HamptonRoadsCrossingStudy.org) or at the Location Public Hearing by oral testimony or written comment form. Additional information regarding how to comment will be included in the public notices.
All comments received during the 45-day comment period on the Draft SEIS, including at the Location Public Hearing, will be addressed in the Final SEIS which is scheduled to be published in Spring 2017
16. How can the public find information on the status of the study?
Updates will be posted to the study web site: www.HamptonRoadsCrossingStudy.org. Through the web site, citizens may request to be added to the project mailing list to receive periodic email updates on the study status. When future public meetings or public reviews are provided, these opportunities also will be published in local newspapers and other media outlets.
17. What public agencies are involved in the study?
FHWA and VDOT serve as the lead agencies for the study. Cooperating Agencies are Federal agencies, other than a lead agency, that have jurisdiction by law or special expertise with respect to any environmental impact resulting from the project. The following agencies have accepted invitations to be Cooperating Agencies: City of Hampton, City of Newport News, City of Norfolk, City of Portsmouth, City of Virginia Beach, Federal Transit Administration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), US Coast Guard, US Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Navy. Participating Agencies are those with an interest in the project. Several dozen Federal and state agencies and groups, as well as the localities within and adjacent to the study area, have been invited to be Participating Agencies for the study.
18. What is the study status?
- Field work to gather existing information in the study area, including traffic counts, wetland information, and potentially historic properties is underway.
- Field work will continue on into early 2016.
- FHWA, VDOT, and the Federal Cooperating Agencies concurred on alternatives to be retained for analysis in the Draft SEIS on January 12, 2016 (see FAQ #9). Data collection of the existing environmental conditions will be completed to allow for potential impacts of each proposed alternative to be assessed. These analyses will be documented in the Draft SEIS which is scheduled to be published and made available for public review and comment in August 2016. This review will include Location Public Hearings, tentatively scheduled for September 2016, to provide the public with a formal opportunity to comment on the Draft SEIS.
19. How long will the study take?
VDOT initiated the study in June 2015. The Draft SEIS is scheduled to be released for a 45-day public review in August 2016. At that time, it will be made available for public comment and presented at Location Public Hearings to be held in September 2016. Following the public review, the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) will be briefed on the study, the public input received, and the alternative the Cooperating Agencies believe to be the Preferred Alternative. It is anticipated that, following this briefing, CTB will identify a Preferred Alternative. A Final SEIS will be published to document the Preferred Alternative and respond to comments received on the Draft SEIS. The Final SEIS is scheduled to be published in spring of 2017. Once the Preferred Alternative is properly documented in the HRTPO Long-Range Transportation Plan, the HRTPO Transportation Improvement Program, and the Statewide Transportation Improvement Program, VDOT can request a ROD from FHWA to complete the NEPA process. FHWA and VDOT anticipate completing the NEPA process through phased RODs. This will allow HRTPO and HRTAC to allocate available resources to specific sections of the Preferred Alternative and advance the given section through the design and construction process.
20. What happens when the study is completed?
Once a ROD is issued for a section of the Preferred Alternative, VDOT may proceed with detailed design and construction activities to advance the section.
21. Could properties be affected?
The study will identify properties that could be impacted by the proposed alternatives. Potential right of way impacts will be documented in the Draft SEIS and presented during the Location Public Hearings. Final impacts cannot be determined until a given section of the Preferred Alternative undergoes detailed design. Once FHWA has issued a ROD for the given section, VDOT may advance to this detailed design. At that time final property impacts would be determined.
22. How will the Preferred Alternative be identified?
Following the comment period on the Draft SEIS, FHWA and VDOT will share public comments received on the draft with the Cooperating Agencies. Information provided in the public comments, coupled with the findings of the NEPA study, will be used to allow the agencies to concur on a recommended Preferred Alternative. This information also will be used by USACE to make a preliminary assessment regarding the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA). As required by the 404(b)(1) guidelines, the Corps of Engineers can only authorize the LEPDA through its permit process. To be the LEDPA, an alternative must result in the least impact to aquatic resources while being practicable, which means it is available and capable of being done after taking into consideration cost, existing technology, and logistics in light of overall project purposes. The USACE makes these considerations in light of project purpose and it should also be noted that any consideration of the LEDPA prior to making a permit decision is only a preliminary assessment. The identification of the recommended Preferred Alternative will reflect this assessment and will be presented to the CTB.
23. Are permits required for this study?
No permits are required for this study.
24. Could any recommendations result in a Public-Private Partnership?
Any analysis of a potential Public-Private Partnership would be conducted by Virginia’s Office of Public and Private Partnership and would be conducted independently of the NEPA study.
25. Does VDOT want to build more projects and toll them?
The SEIS documentation will analyze some of the potential tolling options and the associated impacts; however, a final decision as to if an alternative should be tolled would come through the CTB, Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, and Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission.
26. Will the SEIS include an analysis of tolling and/or recommend tolling?
The SEIS will include a toll diversion analysis which will provide analysis of how traffic patterns may be impacted by different tolling and/or lane management scenarios. Given the wide range of scenarios that are possible along the different study area corridors, the toll diversion analysis will be based on several of HRTAC’s “Initial Project Financing Scenarios.” This toll diversion analysis does not mean that roads are going to be tolled. The SEIS also will include discussions on the impact that tolling or other lane management scenarios may have on the region.
The alternatives retained for analysis in the SEIS will be designed to accommodate general purpose lanes, High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, or lanes tolled/managed in other ways. If the preferred alternative includes a specific toll or management scenario, it would be documented and analyzed in the Final SEIS. A final decision on tolling is not required to be identified for the preferred alternative or to complete the NEPA process. Such a decision could be made after the study is complete and more detailed engineering and traffic studies are complete.
27. How will transit options be included in the SEIS?
During the initiation of the HRCS SEIS, VDOT worked with the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit (DRPT) and Hampton Roads Transit (HRT) to develop preliminary ridership projections for rail and bus transit along the study area corridors. As a result of this preliminary analysis, DRPT recommended continued study of dedicated light rail transit was not warranted. DRPT also noted that the results of the preliminary analysis supported continued study of high frequency bus rapid transit (BRT).
Each alternative retained for analysis in the SEIS will accommodate transit. In some cases, this would occur through dedicated transit lanes. In other cases, transit operations would occur in lanes open to other vehicles. A description of how transit could operate under each alternative will be included in the Draft SEIS. If appropriate, additional transit modeling would occur once the preferred alternative is identified.