Chamber leaders prod lawmakers on highway bill

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 21, 2008

At least two groups are lobbying state lawmakers to buckle down and take action this week in Richmond.

Eighteen area business and community leadership organizations joined together to lobby the Hampton Roads’ General Assembly delegation: Fix transportation now.

In a press release signed by chamber of commerce leaders, as well as business and retail advocates, representatives of the 18 organizations &uot;have been very encouraged by the recent efforts of the Hampton Roads General Assembly delegation to come together around the region’s transportation system funding problem and they urge them to continue to work collectively toward a solution.&uot;

This group seeks a &uot;dedicated, regional revenue stream that 1) is broad-based so that no single group bears an unfair burden; 2) is simple and efficient to collect; 3) is dedicated to the six major projects that were previously agreed to pursuant to the federal law by the Hampton Roads localities and that is 4) statutorily protected from any diversion from these purposes.&uot;

The letter was signed by Lauren Harper, president of the Franklin-Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, and Dick Holland, who chairs of the Isle of Wight-Smithfield-Windsor Chamber of Commerce.

&uot;Legislators need to do something about transportation and not sit on their hands,&uot; Holland said recently. &uot;I think you’re going to see more and more congestion, and soon our roads will be in worse condition than they’re in now.&uot;

Distribution of the letter was championed by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce based in Norfolk.

A second, more elaborate effort is being made by the Hampton Roads Partnership, a public-private organization formed in 1996. The partnership represents 10 cities, six counties and one town, equaling nearly 1.6 million citizens of Virginia. Included in that representation is Southampton and Isle of Wight counties, Franklin and Smithfield.

The partnership has created a Web site called and offers visitors a chance to register and to send e-mails directly to their state legislators to lobby for a change.

To further ease the lobbying effort, pre-written e-mails are available for those wishing to sign their name and send one.

An e-mail announcing the site states that &uot;Virginians demand the Virginia General Assembly in Special Session, beginning Monday, June 23rd, do something to fix the traffic problems that threaten to bring our Commonwealth’s economic engines to a grinding halt.&uot;

Dana Dickens is the president and chief operating officer of Hampton Roads Partnership. He is a former two-term mayor of Suffolk.

The partnership called itself &uot;the only organization in Hampton Roads that focuses on the region’s strategic issues for the purpose of enhancing our competitiveness in the global economy with resulting income and job growth for our citizens.&uot;