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STATE OF THE REGION REPORT TACKLES VARIETY OF HAMPTON ROADS ISSUES

Old Dominion University's seventh annual State of the Region report examines a wide array of Hampton Roads issues, ranging from the economy to the growing problem of traffic congestion.

Published by ODU's Regional Studies Institute, the report also looks at beach replenishment from the standpoint of who benefits and how the costs should be shared.

In addition, the 104-page report discusses the state of Hampton Roads' open spaces and parks, as well as its theaters and performing arts companies; addresses the plight of its young people; and looks at the economic impact from neighboring counties in North Carolina.

James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics and President Emeritus, oversaw the production of the report, which received financial support from the university and a number of local organizations and individuals. Koch notes that the report does not constitute an official viewpoint of the university.

"The State of the Region reports maintain the goal of stimulating thought and discussion that ultimately will make Hampton Roads an even better place to live," he said. "We are proud of our region's many successes, but realize it is possible to improve our performance. In order to do so, we must have accurate information about 'where we are' and a sound understanding of the policy options available to us."

The 2006 report is divided into seven parts. Among its findings are:

• The regional economy has slowed down to the national average after five superb years of growth fueled by defense expenditures. Defense expenditures are decelerating, the Ford plant is closing and the Base Realignment and Closure process will soon be under way.

• Currituck County, N.C., already is considered part of the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Of the four other counties (Camden, Gates, Perquimans, Pasquotank) that lie just south of the region, only Gates appears sufficiently connected to Hampton Roads to be added to the MSA in the future.

• Traffic congestion already is bad in the region. The estimated cost in 2006 is $471 million, or $294 per person. If nothing is done to alleviate the situation, the cost will grow to $1.06 billion, or $606 per person in 2015. Simulations also predict the average speed of automobile commuters going through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel will fall to 7.2 mph in 10 years.

• Open space and parks are unevenly distributed across the region. While Virginia Beach has done a particularly good job in promoting its parks and green space, open space is disappearing in the region at a very rapid rate. Either we preserve such space now, or it may disappear forever.

• Hampton Roads is plentifully endowed with an impressive variety of theaters and performing arts companies. Their diverse work, which provides the region with vital cultural and economic benefits, is critiqued.

• By several measures, Hampton Roads' young people are not doing so well. Particularly problematic are the high percentages of youth who live in poverty and babies born to very young mothers. It is easy to track the societal problems that result.

• Replenishing the region's beaches with sand is critical to their attractiveness. More than $100 million has been spent on beach replenishment in Virginia Beach over the past decade, with the federal government paying about two-thirds. To the extent that beach replenishment pays off handsomely for Virginia Beach, the city probably should pay a larger share of the cost.

Copies of the 2006 State of the Region report are available by contacting 683-3114. This year's report, as well as the reports from 2000 through 2005, can be found on the Web at http://www.odu.edu/forecasting.

This article was posted on: October 2, 2006

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Telephone: 757-683-3114
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