Hampton Roads is the name of both a body of water and a metropolitan region in Southeastern Virginia and Northeastern North Carolina, United States. Comprising the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News-Hampton, VA-NC metropolitan area and an extended Combined Statistical Area that includes Elizabeth City Micropolitan Statistical Area and Kill Devil Hills, NC Micropolitan Statistical Area, Hampton Roads is known for its large military presence, ice-free harbor, shipyards, coal piers, and miles of waterfront property and beaches, all of which contribute to the diversity and stability of the region's economy.
The body of water known as Hampton Roads is one of the world's largest natural harbors (more accurately a roadstead or "roads"). It incorporates the mouths of the Elizabeth River, Nansemond River, and James River with several smaller rivers and empties into the Chesapeake Bay near its mouth leading to the Atlantic Ocean.
The land area (also known as "Tidewater") includes a collection of cities, counties and towns on the Virginia Peninsula and in South Hampton Roads. Some of the outlying areas further from the harbor may or may not be included as part of "Hampton Roads", depending upon the organization or usage. For example, as defined for federal economic purposes, the Hampton Roads metropolitan statistical area (MSA) includes two counties in northeastern North Carolina and two counties in Virginia's Middle Peninsula. The Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News-Hampton, VA-NC MSA has a population of over 1.7 million, making it the 37th-largest metropolitan area in the United States. The newly created Combined Statistical Area includes 4 more counties in North Carolina, pushing the region population to over 1.8 million residents, the 32nd largest CSA in the country.
The area is steeped in 400 years of American history, with hundreds of historical sites and attractions that draw visitors from around the world each year. The harbor was the key to Hampton Roads' growth, both on land and in water-related activities and events. While the harbor and its tributaries were (and still are) important transportation conduits, at the same time they presented obstacles to land-based commerce and travel.
Creating and maintaining adequate infrastructure has long been a major challenge. The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel (MMMBT) are major harbor crossings of the Hampton Roads Beltway interstate, which links the large population centers of Hampton Roads. In 2007, the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA) was formed under a controversial state law to levy various additional taxes, fees, and tolls to generate funding for major regional transportation projects, including a long-sought but costly third crossing of the harbor of Hampton Roads.
The term "Hampton Roads" is a centuries-old designation that originated when the region was a struggling English outpost nearly four hundred years ago. The origin of the two words is noteworthy.
The word Hampton honors one of the founders of the Virginia Company of London and a great supporter of the colonization of Virginia, Henry Wriothesley, 3rd Earl of Southampton. The early administrative center of the new colony was known as Elizabeth Cittie, named for Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of King James I, and formally designated by the Virginia Company in 1619. The town at the center of Elizabeth Cittie became known as Hampton, and a nearby waterway was designated Hampton Creek (also known as Hampton River).
Other references to the Earl include the area to the north across the bay (in what is now the Eastern Shore) which became known as Northampton, and an area south of the James River which became Southampton. As with Hampton, both of these names remain in use today.
The term Roads (short for roadstead) indicates the safety of a port; as applied to a body of water, it is "a partly sheltered area of water near a shore in which vessels may ride at anchor". Examples of other roadsteads are Castle Roads, in another of the Virginia Company's settlements, Bermuda, and Lahaina Roads, in Hawaii.
In 1755, the Virginia General Assembly recorded the name "Hampton Roads" as the channel linking the James, Elizabeth, and Nansemond rivers with the Chesapeake Bay.
Though it may be a misnomer, Hampton Roads has become known as the world's largest natural harbor, in part because it is the northernmost major East Coast port of the United States which is ice-free year round. (This status is claimed with the notable exception of the extraordinarily cold winter of 1917, which was the entire U.S.'s coldest year on record.)
Over time, the entire region has come to be known as "Hampton Roads", a label more specific than its other moniker, "Tidewater Virginia", which could, by implication, include other areas of tidal land in eastern Virginia. The U.S. Postal Service changed the area's postmark from "Tidewater Virginia" to "Hampton Roads, Virginia" beginning in 1983.
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Counties and independent cities
The U.S. Census Bureau defines the Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News-Hampton, VA-NC MSA as 16 county-level jurisdictions--five counties and nine independent cities in Virginia, and two counties in North Carolina. While the borders of what locals call "Hampton Roads" may not perfectly align with the definition of the MSA, Hampton Roads is most often the name used for the metropolitan area.
Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC MSA is a U.S. Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). According to the 2010 Census its population is 1,676,822.
Since a state constitutional change in 1871, all cities in Virginia are independent cities and they are not legally located in a county. The OMB considers these independent cities to be county-equivalents for the purpose of defining MSAs in Virginia. Each MSA is listed by its counties, then cities, in alphabetical order and not by size.
The MSA consists of these locations in Virginia:
- Gloucester County
- Isle of Wight County
- James City County
- Mathews County
- York County
- City of Chesapeake
- City of Hampton
- City of Newport News
- City of Norfolk
- City of Poquoson
- City of Portsmouth
- City of Suffolk
- City of Virginia Beach
- City of Williamsburg
In North Carolina
Hampton Roads also includes the following locations in North Carolina:
- Currituck County
- Gates County
Evolution of Hampton Roads
The Hampton Roads metropolitan area was first defined in 1950 as the Norfolk-Portsmouth Metropolitan Standard Area. It comprised the independent cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth and South Norfolk and the counties of Norfolk and Princess Anne. In 1952, Virginia Beach separated from Princess Anne County.
In 1963, Virginia Beach and Princess Anne County merged, retaining the name Virginia Beach. The city was added to the MSA that year, while South Norfolk lost its metropolitan status. Also in 1963, Norfolk County and the City of South Norfolk merged to create the city of Chesapeake.
In 1973, Chesapeake and Currituck County were added to the MSA, while Virginia Beach became a primary city.
In 1983, the cities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Suffolk and Williamsburg, and the counties of Gloucester, James City and York were added. Portsmouth's status as a primary city was removed and Newport News was named a primary city.
In 1993, Isle of Wight, Mathews and Surry counties were added. Although Virginia Beach had passed Norfolk as the state's largest city by 1990, it was not made the first primary city of the MSA until 2010.
As a result of the 2010 Census, Gates County, North Carolina was added to the MSA, while Surry County, Virginia was removed.
Combined Statistical Area
In the 2010 census, the Virginia Beach-Norfolk, VA-NC Combined Statistical Area included the neighboring NC counties:
- Pasquotank County
- Perquimans County
- Camden County
- Dare County
As of the 2010 census, the total population of this Combined Statistical Area was 1,779,243, with a 2013 estimate of 1,810,266, a growth of 1.74%. It is currently the 32nd largest in the country and 2nd largest to comprise Virginia.
The first colonists arrived in 1607 when English Captain Christopher Newport's three ships, his flagship Susan Constant, the smaller Godspeed, and even smaller Discovery landed in April 1607 at Cape Henry along the Atlantic Coast in today's City of Virginia Beach, an event now known as the "First Landing." However, they moved on, under orders from the Virginia Company of London, the crews and new colonists sought a more sheltered area up one of the rivers. Their major concern was other European competitors such as the Spanish, who had earlier discovered the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia's rivers, and had even in 1570 begun a small settlement on the Virginia Peninsula known as the Ajacán Mission, which had failed.
During 18 days of exploring the area, they surely saw the enormous harbor of Hampton Roads, and some of the party must have appreciated its possibilities. However, after exploring the James River west at least as far as present-day Hopewell, they agreed upon Jamestown Island, where they established the first successful English colony in the New World on May 14, 1607.
Despite the defensive advantages of that location against Spanish attacks, the low and marshy site at Jamestown proved a very poor choice in many other ways. More than five years of fragile existence and high mortality rates followed including the Starving Time of 1609-10 when over 80% of the 500 colonists perished before the future of the Virginia Colony began to appear more promising. The change came about with the just-in-time arrival of a new Governor, Lord De La Warr, and a new colonist with a successful business idea named John Rolfe, who established the Virginia tobacco industry.
For centuries, the harbor and rivers of Hampton Roads have been ideal locations for both commerce and for many major shipyards. Some were established as early as the late 18th century such as the Gosport Navy Yard in what is now the City of Portsmouth.
The harbor was also a key point for military control of the region. Even the earliest settlers created fortifications at Old Point Comfort by 1610 against potential attacks by ships of Spanish or other unfriendly European forces.
Revolution, War of 1812 and Defense of Chesapeake Bay
Important conflicts of the American Revolutionary War involved Norfolk, Yorktown and Craney Island (at the mouth of the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth). It was at Norfolk where the last Royal Governor of the Virginia Colony, Lord Dunmore, departed mainland Virginia for the last time. More importantly, the decisive battle of the Revolution was won at Yorktown, in 1781.
The first naval action of the War of 1812 took place on July 8, 1812, when the Bermuda sloop, HMS Whiting, its crew oblivious to the US declaration of war, dropped anchor in Hampton Roads. As its captain was being rowed ashore, the Royal Naval vessel was seized by the American privateer Dash, which happened to be leaving port.
Under the new United States government, by the 1830s, the entrance from Chesapeake Bay was defended by Fort Monroe, built by the U.S. Army beginning in 1819 on Old Point Comfort, and by Fort Wool, built as Fort Calhoun in 1829, on a small island called the Rip Raps near the middle of the channel (and now adjacent to one of the manmade islands of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel). Much work in the building of these fortresses in the early 19th century was done by a 24-year-old engineer in the U.S. Army, a Lieutenant named Robert E. Lee.
During the American Civil War (1861-1865), the famous Battle of Hampton Roads between the first American ironclad warships, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (ex-USS Merrimack) took place off Sewell's Point, on March 8-9, 1862. That battle was inconclusive, but later in 1862, Union forces took control of Hampton Roads, Norfolk, and the lower James River. However, their efforts to take the Confederate capital of Richmond via the James River with their vastly superior Navy were thwarted by a strong Confederate battery position high above a bend in the river about 8 miles (13 km) below Richmond at Drewry's Bluff.
Fort Monroe was the launching place for Union General George McClellan's massive 1862 Peninsula Campaign, a land campaign of many months which began at Fort Monroe and advanced up the Virginia Peninsula, with a Siege at Yorktown and another battle at Williamsburg before the Union Army almost literally reached the gates of Richmond, ending at the Chickahominy River within earshot of the city's church bells, according to the journals of Union soldiers. However, the Confederates mounted a credible defense of their capital city, and McClellan's campaign failed to capture Richmond, ending in the Seven Days Battles, during which the Union Army withdrew, effectively extending the War for almost three more years.
On February 3, 1865, as the Confederacy was near total collapse, President Abraham Lincoln met with three senior Confederates in an effort to negotiate for peace (the "Hampton Roads Conference"). Lincoln wanted the states to return to the Union and indicated the Union would pay for the slaves. The Confederates insisted their demand was complete independence, so the 4-hour conference ended in failure.
Beginning in 1861, some of the former slaves found refuge in a camp near Fort Monroe, which remained in Union hands throughout the War. There, the commander, Union Army General Benjamin F. Butler, a lawyer by training, declared them to be "Contraband of war". On that legal basis, Union forces refused to return them to Confederate owners as would have been the practice even in many "free states" before Virginia seceded and declared itself a foreign power. Soon, word spread, and many slaves were understandably anxious to become "contraband."
Although many of the "contraband" men at Hampton and elsewhere during the War volunteered and became part of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), others and the women and children grew in increasing numbers near Fort Monroe in Elizabeth City County. From the wood and materials salvaged from the remains of the Town of Hampton, which had been burned earlier by retreating Confederates, they built the Grand Contraband Camp, near, but outside the protective walls of the Army base. It was the first self-contained African American community in the United States.
Close to the contraband camp stood the Emancipation Oak, on the grounds of a school for freedmen. It was under this tree in 1863 that the contrabands gathered to hear the first Southern reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.
The school, begun by Mary Smith Peake to educate the contrabands, led to a normal school after the war, established by church groups and former Union Army officers. It grew to become present-day Hampton University.
Early educators of the era included former Union Army General Samuel Chapman Armstrong, who was the son of missionaries and commanded a USCT force during the War. Among the earlier students was a young former slave named Booker T. Washington, who went on to become a renowned educator and founder of present-day Tuskegee University.
The Emancipation Oak still stands today on the grounds of Hampton University and is part of the official logo of the city of Hampton.
The Jamestown Exposition for the 300th anniversary of the 1607 founding of Jamestown was held at Sewell's Point in a rural section of Norfolk County in 1907.
President Theodore Roosevelt arrived by water in the harbor of Hampton Roads, as did other notable persons such as Mark Twain and Henry Huttleston Rogers, who both arrived aboard the latter's steam yacht Kanawha. A major naval display was featured, and the U.S. Great White Fleet made an appearance. The leaders of the U.S. Navy apparently did not fail to note the ideal harbor conditions, as was later proved.
Beginning in 1917, as the United States became involved in World War I under President Woodrow Wilson, formerly rural Sewell's Point became the site of what grew to become the largest Naval Base in the world which was established by the United States Navy and is now known as the Naval Station Norfolk.
Twice in the 20th century, families of mostly African American heritage were displaced in entire communities when land along the northern side of the Peninsula primarily in York County west of Yorktown was taken in large tracts for military use during World War I and World War II, creating the present-day U.S. Naval Weapons Station Yorktown, which includes Cheatham Annex, and a former Seabee base which became Camp Peary.
Communities including "the Reservation", Halstead's Point, Penniman, Bigler's Mill, and Magruder were all lost and absorbed into the large military bases.
Although some left the area entirely, many of the displaced families chose to relocate nearby to Grove, an unincorporated town in southeastern James City County where many generations of some of those families now reside. From a population estimated at only 37 in 1895, Grove had grown to an estimated 1,100 families by the end of the 20th century. (To its north, Grove actually borders the Naval Weapons Station property and on its extreme east, a portion of the U.S. Army's land at Fort Eustis extends across Skiffe's Creek, although there is no direct access to either base).
A dream of one Episcopalian priest to save his 18th-century church building was to expand to create the world's largest living museum. Replacing Jamestown at the end of the 17th century, Williamsburg had been capital of the Colony and the new State of Virginia from 1699 to 1780. After the capital moved to Richmond in 1780, Williamsburg became a quieter and sometimes described as "sleepy" small town. It saw some action during the Battle of Williamsburg of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign during the Civil War. However, it was not located along any major waterway and did not have railroad access until 1881. Perhaps due to the secure inland location originally known as Middle Plantation, for Williamsburg, growth and great expansion of commerce in the 19th century did not occur as rapidly as in many other Virginia cities. The main activities were The College of William & Mary and Eastern State Hospital, each historic institutions in their own right. In addition to the city's historic past, quite a few buildings of antiquity from the 18th century were still extant, although time was taking a toll by the early 20th century.
The Reverend Dr. W.A.R. Goodwin of Bruton Parish Church initially had wanted merely to save his historic church building. This he accomplished by 1907. He later served in Rochester, New York for many years. Upon returning to Williamsburg in 1923, he began to realize that many of the other colonial-era buildings also remained, but were in deteriorating condition, and their continued longevity was at risk.
Goodwin dreamed of a much larger restoration along the lines of what he had accomplished with his historic church. A cleric of modest means, he sought support and financing from a number of sources before successfully drawing the interests and major financial support of Standard Oil heir and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and his wife Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. The result of their combined efforts was the creation of Colonial Williamsburg, which included a restoration of the Wren Building at The College of William & Mary and a change of much of the downtown Williamsburg area into a 301-acre (1.2 km2) Historic Area of restored and replica buildings and surrounds to celebrate the patriots and the early history of America.
By the 1930s, Colonial Williamsburg had become the centerpiece of the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia. These were, of course, Jamestown, where the colony started, Williamsburg, and Yorktown, where independence from Great Britain was won. The three points were joined by the U.S. National Park Service's Colonial Parkway, a remarkable accomplishment built over a period of 27 years. The Historic Triangle area of the Hampton Roads region became one of the largest tourist attractions in the entire world.
In Dr. Goodwin's words: "Williamsburg is Jamestown continued, and Yorktown is Williamsburg vindicated."
Other notable Hampton Roads "firsts"
America's first free public schools, the Syms and Eaton free schools (later combined as Syms-Eaton Academy), were established in Hampton in 1634 and 1659 respectively. The Syms-Eaton Academy was later renamed Hampton Academy and in 1852 became part of the public school system, thus Hampton High School lays claim to being the oldest public school in the United States. The trust fund created from the Syms and Eaton donations has remained intact since the 17th century and was incorporated into support for the Hampton public school system.
In 1957, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was the first bridge-tunnel complex in the world, to be followed by the area's much longer Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel in 1963. This was followed by the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in 1992. The prevalence of bridge-tunnels in the area is due to the number of shipbuilding and naval bases in the area. Access to the open ocean from Norfolk Naval Shipyard (in Portsmouth), Naval Station Norfolk, Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek - Fort Story, and Newport News Shipbuilding (where all U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers have been built) do not pass under any bridges. Passing under bridges was considered a potential threat to the U.S. fleet.
In the 1960s, the first astronauts of Project Mercury trained at the NASA facility adjacent to Hampton's Langley Air Force Base. Local features including Mercury Boulevard and a succession of astronaut-name bridges over the Hampton creek commemorate this fact.
The military has a large presence in the region. Area military facilities (alphabetically) include:
The area consists of ten independent cities and seven counties. Each independent city has the powers and responsibilities of a county, including maintaining roads, courts, schools, and public safety. Some cities share these responsibilities with an adjoining county. Incorporated towns located within counties in Virginia do not operate independently.
The localities come together to consult on regional issues. Virginia defines regional planning districts by law. District members are usually independent cities and counties. Localities around the state may belong to more than one Planning District, as their constituents may have interests which cross over individual planning district boundaries.
The Hampton Roads Planning District Commission (HRPDC) currently includes 16 cities and counties in Virginia, and represents over 1.6 million people.
The 16 jurisdictions include:
- the Cities of Chesapeake, Franklin, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Poquoson, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Virginia Beach, and Williamsburg,
- the Counties of Gloucester, Isle of Wight, James City, Southampton, Surry, and York
There are incorporated towns in three of the counties (Isle of Wight, Southampton and Surry) within the district.
The differences between the service area of the HRPDC and the federally defined metropolitan statistical area (MSA) are:
- Southampton County and the City of Franklin are not in the MSA.
- Mathews County is in the MSA but not the HRPDC.
- The MSA includes Currituck County, North Carolina, but the HRPDC does not.
The federal government has two major research laboratories in the area. NASA-Langley, on the northeast edge of Hampton near Poquoson, is the home of a variety of aeronautics research, including several one-of-a-kind wind tunnels. The Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (known as 'Jefferson Lab') conducts cutting edge physics research in Newport News; the lab hosts the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility (CEBAF) and a kilowatt-class Free-Electron Laser.
The water area known as Hampton Roads is a wide channel through which the waters of the James River, Nansemond River, and Elizabeth River pass (between Old Point Comfort to the north and Sewell's Point to the south) into the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
The geology and topography of the Hampton Roads region is influenced by the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater which is one of three factors contributing to the sinking of Hampton Roads at a rate between 15 and 23 centimeters (5.9 and 9.1 inches) per century.
The region has extensive natural areas, including 26 miles (42 km) of Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay beaches, the Great Dismal Swamp, picturesque rivers, state parks, wildlife refuges, and botanical gardens. Inland from the bay, the region includes Lake Drummond, one of only two natural lakes found in Virginia, and miles of waterfront property along the various rivers and waterways. The region's native flora is consistent with that of the Southeast Coastal Plain and the lower Southeast Maritime Forest.
The land area which constitutes "Hampton Roads" varies depending upon perspective and purpose. Most of the land area of Hampton Roads is geographically divided into 2 smaller regions: the eastern portion of the Virginia Peninsula (the Peninsula) and South Hampton Roads (locally known as "the Southside"), which are separated by the harbor. When speaking of communities of Hampton Roads, virtually all sources (including the three discussed in the following paragraphs) include the seven major cities, two smaller ones, and three counties within those two subregions.
In addition, the Middle Peninsula counties of Gloucester and Mathews, while not part of the geographical Hampton Roads area, are included in the vast metropolitan region's population. Also, a small portion of northeastern North Carolina (Currituck County) is included in the region's statistics. Due to a peculiarity in the drawing of the Virginia-North Carolina border, Knott's Island in that county is connected to Virginia by land, but is only accessible to other parts of North Carolina across waterways via a ferry system.
Each of the following current cities, counties and towns is included by at least one of the three organizations that define "Hampton Roads"
The Hampton Roads area consists of nine independent cities (which are not part of any county). Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach cover the Southside of Hampton Roads while Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg reside on the Peninsula. Franklin borders Suffolk but the Census Bureau does not consider it as a part of the metro area.
The metro area has one county in North Carolina, Currituck. The remaining counties, in Virginia, include Isle of Wight and Surry on the Southside, James City and York on the Virginia Peninsula, and Gloucester and Mathews on the Middle Peninsula. While Southampton is adjacent to Surry, Isle of Wight, and the City of Suffolk, the Census Bureau does not consider it part of the metro area.
Five incorporated towns reside in the metro area including Claremont in Surry County, Dendron in Surry County, Smithfield in Isle of Wight County, Surry, Surry County's seat, and Windsor in Isle of Wight County. (Two other incorporated towns, Boykins and Courtland are located in Southampton County, and therefore, like the county within which they are located, are not part of the federally defined metropolitan area).
Other unincorporated towns and communities in the metropolitan area which are not within its cities include Gloucester Courthouse and Gloucester Point in Gloucester County, Isle of Wight Courthouse, Rushmere, Rescue, Carrollton, Benns Church, and Walters in Isle of Wight County, Yorktown, Grafton, Seaford, and Tabb in York County, Jamestown, Ford's Colony, Grove, Lightfoot, Toano, and Norge in James City County, Moyock, Knotts Island, and Currituck in Currituck County, North Carolina.
The Hampton Roads MSA, with a population of about 1.7 million, is the seventh largest metropolitan area in the Southeastern United States after Washington-Baltimore-Arlington, DC-MD-VA-WVA-PA MSA, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL MSA, Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA MSA, Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL MSA, Orlando-Kissimmee, FL MSA, and Charlotte-Gastonia-Rock Hill, NC-SC MSA.
According to the 2010 Census, the overall racial composition of Hampton Roads was as follows:
- White or Caucasian: 59.6%
- Black or African American: 31.3%
- American Indian: 0.4%
- Asian: 3.5%
- Some other race: 1.7%
- Two or more races: 3.4%
In addition, 5.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). 57.2% of the population were of non-Hispanic White background.
Historically, from the earliest times, the harbor was the key to the Hampton Roads area's growth, both on land and in water-related activities and events. Ironically, the harbor and its tributary waterways were (and still are) both important transportation conduits and obstacles to other land-based commerce and travel. Yet, the community leaders learned to overcome them.
In modern times, the region has faced increasing transportation challenges as it has become largely urbanized, with additional traffic needs. In the 21st century, the conflicts between traffic on vital waterways and land-based travel continue to present the area's leaders with extraordinary transportation challenges, both for additional capacity, and as the existing infrastructure, much of it originally built with toll revenues, has aged without an adequate source of funding to repair or build replacements. The now-closed Kings Highway Bridge in Suffolk and the Jordan Bridge closed by neighboring Chesapeake in 2008 were each built in the 1920s. These were considered locally prime examples of this situation.
In 2007, the new Hampton Roads Transportation Authority (HRTA) was formed under a controversial state law to levy various additional taxes to generate funding for major regional transportation projects, including a long-sought and costly additional crossing of the harbor of Hampton Roads (The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel, Monitor-Merrimac Bridge Tunnel, and the James River Bridge are the existing crossings). As of March 2008, although its projects were considered to be needed, the agency's future was in some question while its controversial sources of funding were being reconsidered in light of a Virginia Supreme Court decision.
Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, located in Newport News, and Norfolk International Airport, in Norfolk, both cater to passengers from Hampton Roads. The primary airport for the Virginia Peninsula is the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. The Airport experienced a 4th year of record, double-digit growth through 2011, making it one of the fastest growing airports in the country. In 2012 however, the airport lost its biggest carrier and has seen massive declines in passenger service, culminating in layoffs of police officers and many other staff. Norfolk International Airport (IATA: ORF, ICAO: KORF, FAA LID: ORF), serves the region. The airport is located near Chesapeake Bay, along the city limits of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Seven airlines provide nonstop services to twenty five destinations. ORF had 3,703,664 passengers take off or land at its facility and 68,778,934 pounds of cargo were processed through its facilities. The Chesapeake Regional Airport provides general aviation services and is located on the other side of the Hampton Roads Harbor.
Amtrak serves the region with Northeast Regional trains to its Norfolk, Williamsburg and Newport News stations. The lines run west to Richmond then north to Washington, DC and major cities north to Boston. Connecting buses are available between the Norfolk and Newport News stations and from both stations to Virginia Beach. A high-speed rail connection at Richmond to both the Northeast Corridor and the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor are also under study.
Intercity bus service is provided by Greyhound Lines (Carolina Trailways) with bus stations in Newport News, Hampton, and Norfolk. Transportation within Hampton Roads is served by a regional bus service, Hampton Roads Transit. Local routes serving Williamsburg, James City County, and upper York County is operated by Williamsburg Area Transport.
A light rail service known as The Tide was constructed in Norfolk. It began service in August 2011. Operated by Hampton Roads Transit, it is the first light rail service in the state. It is projected to have a daily ridership of between 7,130 to 11,400 passengers a day. There has also been a light rail study in the Hampton - Newport News areas.
The Hampton Roads area has an extensive network of Interstate Highways, including the Interstate 64, the major east-west route to and from the area, and its spurs and bypasses of I-264, I-464, I-564, and I-664.
The Hampton Roads Beltway extends 56 miles (90 km) on a long loop through the region, crossing the harbor on two toll-free bridge-tunnel facilities. These crossings are the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel between Phoebus in Hampton and Willoughby Spit in Norfolk and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel between Newport News and Suffolk. The Beltway connects with another Interstate highway and three arterial U.S. Highways at Bower's Hill near the northeastern edge of the Great Dismal Swamp. Other major east-west routes are U.S. Route 58, U.S. Route 60, and U.S. Route 460. The major north-south routes are U.S. Route 13 and U.S. Route 17.
There are also two other tunnels in the area, the Midtown Tunnel, and the Downtown Tunnel joining Portsmouth and Norfolk, as well as the 17-mile (27 km)-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a toll facility which links the region with Virginia's Eastern Shore which carries US 13. The original Downtown Tunnel in conjunction with the Berkley Bridge were considered a single bridge and tunnel complex when completed in 1952, perhaps stimulating the innovative bridge-tunnel design using man-made islands when the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was planned, first opening in 1957. The George P. Coleman Memorial Bridge is a major toll bridge connecting U.S. Highway 17 on the Peninsula at Yorktown with Virginia's Middle Peninsula region. Another major crossing of waterways is the James River Bridge, carrying US 17 US 258, and SR 32 from Newport News to Isle of Wight County.
The region is notable in that it has 2 types of public transport services via ferries. A passenger ferry is operated on the Elizabeth River between downtown areas of Norfolk and Portsmouth by HRT. The Jamestown Ferry (also known as the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry) is an automobile ferry system on the James River connecting Jamestown in James City County with Scotland in Surry County. It carries State Route 31. Operated by VDOT, it is the only 24-hour state-run ferry operation in Virginia and has over 90 employees. It operates four ferryboats, the Pocahontas, the Williamsburg, the Surry, and the Virginia. The facility is toll-free.
Hampton Roads' individual cities and counties administer their own K-12 education for their localities. In addition to public education, area residents have many private and religious school options.
The area also has a number of higher education options for area residents. Some offer only associates and technical degrees and certificates, while others award advanced degrees, including doctorates. Some are publicly funded, but the region also has a number of private and for-profit colleges. Additionally, a number of universities have established satellite campuses in the region.
The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg was founded in 1693 and has served as the second oldest institution of higher education in the United States. Old Dominion University, founded as the Norfolk Division of the College of William and Mary in 1930, became an independent institution in 1962 and now offers degrees in 68 undergraduate and 95 (60 masters/35 doctoral) graduate degree programs. Norfolk's Eastern Virginia Medical School, founded as a community medical school by the surrounding jurisdictions in 1973, is noted for its research into reproductive medicine and is located in the region's major medical complex in the Ghent district. Norfolk State University is the largest majority black university in Virginia and offers degrees in a wide variety of liberal arts. Christopher Newport University serves as a public university and is located in Newport News.
Private Non-Profit Universities
Regent University, a private university founded by Christian Evangelist and Leader Pat Robertson, has historically focused on graduate education but is attempting to establish an undergraduate program as well. Atlantic University, associated with the Edgar Cayce organization's Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), offers instruction in New Age subjects and an M.A. in Transpersonal Studies. Virginia Wesleyan College is a small private liberal arts college on the border of Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Hampton University, a private HBCU university, has a long history serving Hampton.
Universities with Satellite Campuses
Several universities based outside Hampton Roads offer a limited selection of classes in the area. Virginia Tech and University of Virginia have established a joint teaching center in Newport News. George Washington University and Averett University also maintain campuses there. Troy State University, Florida International University, and Saint Leo University offer classes, primarily connected to one or more of the area's military bases.
The National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) is a consortium of member universities: Georgia Tech, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T, North Carolina State, Old Dominion University, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, the College of William and Mary, and Christopher Newport University. Their unique approach allows students pursuing M.S. and Ph.D. degrees the opportunity to take classes from any member university taught at the Institute.
Area residents also have options for training for technical professions. The Apprentice School was founded in 1919 and offers four/five-year programs in mechanical and technical fields associated with the shipbuilding industry. Graduates from the Apprentice School go on to work at the Newport News Shipbuilding. Technology-focused ECPI University has campuses in Virginia Beach and Newport News while ITT Technical Institute has a campus in Norfolk. Bryant & Stratton College has campuses in Virginia Beach Town Center and Peninsula Town Center. The Culinary Institute of Virginia is located in Norfolk. The Art Institute of Virginia Beach offers programs in the media arts, design and culinary arts fields.
Three institutions in the Virginia Community College System offer affordable higher education options for area residents. Tidewater Community College in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, and Portsmouth, Paul D. Camp Community College in Suffolk, Franklin, and Smithfield, and Thomas Nelson Community College in Hampton and Williamsburg offer two-year degrees and specialized training programs.
Bible training schools include Hampton University and Regent University, but also Canaan Theological College & Seminary, Bethel College and Victory Baptist Bible College and Seminary in Hampton, Tabernacle Baptist Bible College & Theological Seminary, Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Virginia Beach, Providence Bible College & Theological Seminary in Norfolk and the Hampton Roads campus of the John Leland Center for Theological Studies.
Hampton Roads is home to four Fortune 500 companies. Representing the food industry, transportation, retail and shipbuilding, these four companies are located in Smithfield, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Newport News.
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