To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Friday, March 21, 2014

Bridge, tunnel traffic has ups and downs after tolls


By Dave Forster, March 21, 2014

Traffic at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels gradually returned - if only slightly - in the first four weeks of tolling, according to the latest look at vehicle counts.

Average weekday volumes increased by about 5,000 vehicles at the Downtown and by about 1,000 vehicles at the Midtown by the end of February, compared with the first week after tolls started on Feb. 1, an analysis by the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization found.

Even so, the combined daily vehicle counts at the two crossings remained about 20,000 lower than the average of 126,000 trips that were recorded during a three-day stretch before tolling.

Meanwhile, a corresponding spike in demand at two untolled crossings held mostly steady. Volumes at the High-Rise Bridge were still up 16 percent at the end of February - the same increase that the bridge saw immediately after tolling. Traffic at the Gilmerton Bridge was up 32 percent at the end of the month, compared with a 34 percent jump initially.

The analysis also found a slight shift in traffic from the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, suggesting that some drivers are taking the latter to avoid the tolled crossings at the Elizabeth River. Of all the trips taken on the two bridge-tunnels across the harbor, 59 percent used the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel at the end of February, versus 57 percent before the Midtown and Downtown were tolled.

The Transportation Planning Organization will give a more detailed report this fall on how the tolls have affected traffic speeds and congestion levels on the region's road network.

A researcher hired by the organization to survey attitudes on the tolls also discussed his findings at a meeting Thursday. The survey, led by Quentin Kidd, director of Christopher Newport University's Wason Center for Public Policy, was done the week before tolling started.

A similar survey will be done in late April so the results can be compared to see whether sentiment has changed.

The survey was conducted by landline and cellphone and involved 601 respondents from Portsmouth, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk. It had a maximum margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.9 percentage points at a 95 percent level of confidence.