Naval Station Norfolk Transit Extension Study

Download the NSNTES – May 2015 Final Report

Hampton Roads Transit and the City of Norfolk are planning for a possible high-capacity transit extension to Naval Station Norfolk. While a final decision is years in the future, the planning process will help to define potential routes and transit modes that could link The Tide light rail with the base.

Any extension plans will consider environmental impacts, right-of-way constraints, economic development, neighborhood revitalization opportunities, and long-term resiliency, meaning it should account for rising seas and increased local flooding in Norfolk.

Addressing mobility concerns to the Navy station is a vital regional interest. The efficient movement of military and civilian personnel to the base is critical for national military readiness and for furthering the economic development goals of the City of Norfolk. Naval Station Norfolk is the largest naval base in the world and is the region’s largest employment center. Between 60,000 to 70,000 people may be working at the base and nearby facilities at any given time.

Automobile travel demand to the base regularly exceed the capacity of the surrounding streets and highways, including Hampton Boulevard, Terminal Boulevard, W. Little Creek Road, I-64, and I-564. Delay on these roadways is expected to worsen over time. Efficient, high-capacity transit would provide an alternative to automobile travel and a way for employees to avoid daily congestion around the base. A transit extension connecting it to The Tide would leverage the significant investment the region has made in fixed guideway transit and offer the region’s residents multiple mobility options to the largest employment center.

Following a series of public workshops, a draft Purpose and Need statement emerged along with a set of seven project themes. A “Purpose and Need” statement essentially addresses these core questions: “Why is the study being conducted, and what problems are being addressed in it?”  The basic answer is that an extension would be, “An efficient, high-capacity transit connection to Naval Station Norfolk would provide an alternative to driving in congested traffic to access (the base)” and that the study would:  “…Create a more multi-modal transportation system that helps support the region’s economic competitiveness.”

The themes include:

  • The transit extension should connect many points within the City of Norfolk, not just the Naval Station.
  • An extension should provide a reasonable transportation alternative to driving a car in heavy traffic and congestion.
  • A fixed guideway connection (such as light rail) between The Tide and the base should make travel time more reliable.
  • An extension should provide parking for transit riders and allow them to connect to other transit modes.
  • The transit extension should provide parking for transit riders.
  • Planning for the transit extension should ensure it can be expanded in the future.
  • Identify environmental impacts, right-of-way constraints, economic development and neighborhood revitalization, and resiliency.

Through a series of public workshops, and staff and consultant work, this study produced findings with two purposes and needs. The first was a corridor primarily along the eastern side of Norfolk. This corridor was generally defined as having a southern starting point near Military Highway and traveling north near Janaf, past Norfolk International Airport, west along Little Creek Road and then north toward the Navy base. A second corridor was identified as running primarily along the Western side of Norfolk. This one was undefined but connects downtown Norfolk through Ghent to Old Dominion University and, possibly, the Naval Station Norfolk.

The two maps below broadly illustrate these ideas. Exact connection points were not defined because additional study is required on the alignment options to destination points.

Where are the commuters to the base coming from?

  • Over 20 percent from Virginia Beach
  • Nearly 20 percent from Norfolk
  • Portsmouth, Hampton and Newport News, each contribute about 5 percent
  • One quarter of the base’s employees live outside Hampton Roads

The Navy base is critical, but it’s not the only focus

Study managers also are examining the transportation needs of other key destinations in Norfolk, including Old Dominion University (ODU), Ghent-area commercial and retail on Colley Avenue and 21st Street, Norfolk International Airport, the Lake Wright Business Park, the Military Highway commercial and retail corridor, and other adjacent local communities.

Next Steps

Following a review of the Corridor Study findings, the Federal Transit Administration’s planning staff recommended the region advance each corridor as independent studies.

  • Each corridor study is anticipated to begin in 2016.
  • The Eastern Alignment should be advanced into a Draft Environmental Impact Statement.
  • The Western Alignment should be advanced into an Alternatives Analysis.

As the work proceeds, planners will keep in mind regional and local studies now underway to help guide the transit extension studies

  • The Virginia Department of Transportation’s supplemental environmental statement of a new Hampton Roads crossing will aid in development of logical termini near the Navy base.
  • The City of Norfolk’s Resiliency Planning will aid in the development of corridor alignments and project phasing.
  • City of Norfolk’s Military Circle Vision Plan will aid in alignment options and connectivity on the Eastern Alignment.