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The recent editorial in the Virginian Pilot is in favor of the campaign to squash plans for the construction of the Midtown Tunnel. Agreed. The extension of The TIDE Light Rail to Portsmouth is the better alternative. How fortuitous that the tunnel project could be declared unconstitutional. There are plenty of common sense reasons to scuttle spending $2.1 billion for a “cars only” tunnel and its endless tolls.

The affect of the tolls on the commuters of Portsmouth would severely upset the vision of regionalism in Hampton Roads. The toll would hurt business growth in Portsmouth. Neighbor-city residents will be discouraged from going to Portsmouth for shopping, sight seeing, restaurants, ntelos venues, museums, the list goes on. Imagine how the tolls will affect real estate values in Portsmouth?

Projected Light Rail Route to PortsmouthATTENTION VDT! One way to reduce traffic on the existing midtown tunnel would be simply to introduce the tolls without the expansion. The capital cost will be zero where the effect the same. And what will happen to all the traffic during construction? Won’t it get severely worse? Is the expansion of the tunnel as a remedy for improving commuter time worse than the problem itself? The idea of the expanded tunnel is great for more cars but fraught with side effects:  worse pollution, greater fossil fuel consumption, increased noise, additional storm water flooding.

As an architect I am schooled in the notion of designing for a vision of the future in terms of lasting for at least a century. It is the “greenest” thing I can do to create a project that is not torn down and replaced before the mortgage is paid off. Site plans are cognizant of the 100-year flood plane as an important design criteria. Shouldn’t transportation systems be held up to the same time horizon? Isn’t fossil fuel depletion, pollution, and land economics setting a stage for an urban development pattern that favors people ahead of providing for ever greater numbers of cars?

Could it be that in 100 years (maybe longer) the expansion of the Midtown Tunnel would look like a bridge to nowhere? There is better idea. Enter the TIDE, here to save the day, with a rolling cape, snappy logo and the ability to vanquish the most powerful villains. Super TIDE has arrived. Our posted map shows that the travel distance to downtown Portsmouth is less than six miles from EVMC (Eastern Virginia Medical Center), the current last stop of the exiting light rail (including the length of the tunnel itself).

We already know that the cost of construction for a light rail tunnel is “considerably less” than the “cars only” tunnel expansion project as currently proposed. It is reasonable to imagine that the cost of providing a new train tunnel as well as extending The TIDE all the way to downtown Portsmouth may be no more expensive than the Midtown Tunnel project with none of the negative side effects.

Light rail promotes urban development patterns that have long term future benefits, providing the millennium planning view for Hampton Roads. Hamilton, Ontario, is an example of a city where citizens have taken a stand for their city’s potential in becoming a more vibrant, livable, and attractive place to live and work. Eight positive reasons in favor of light rail are listed on its website. The extension of the TIDE to Virginia Beach is great. Its time to call in Super TIDE to save the day in Portsmouth too.

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    Urban Underbelly is a blog that seeks to share the back stories of successes and struggles in achieving the visions of New Urbanism, especially in Hampton Roads, Virginia

    New Urbanism: is a city planning and architecture movement directed at the creation and restoration of vibrant neighborhood places: centralized, sustainable, walkable and socially diverse.
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