| The City of Virginia Beach is the recipient of a $449,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration
(part of the Department of Transportation) to study transportation alternatives for visitors to reach Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
without using private motor vehicles. Transportation alternatives can include providing trams from populated areas of the city to the refuge, construction of a shared-use path for biking and walking, and development of canoe/kayak facilities, among others.
The grant program is called the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in Parks Program
, or “TRIPP” for short. Its purpose is to foster alternative transportation to federal lands, including national parks, wildlife refuges, and national forests. View the complete list of 2011/2012 grant recipients
. TRIPP was eliminated in MAP-21, the current federal funding law for transportation, but these grant funds are still assigned for this project.
Scope of the Grant Project
This TRIPP grant is an evaluation of transportation alternatives. The City's application
outlined three specific alternatives:
- Extend the tram service beyond Sandbridge. Trams are operated within the Refuge, using volunteers to give guided tours, but this would expand the service along Sandbridge Road and establish remote parking area(s), perhaps at the planned Refuge visitor center and/or in the Red Mill area.
- Build the Back Bay Refuge Trail. This work includes mapping, wetlands delineation, environmental documents, and preliminary design and cost estimates, but no actual construction.
- Improve water access. Several canoe/kayak launch sites exist around Back Bay. We'll look at how we can improve them or add more in additional locations.
Early steps in the public engagement process will query stakeholders and the public for other ideas.
- February 2012: FTA announced the grant selections
- August 2012: The City contracted with HRT to serve as the administrative pass-thru from FTA.
- February - June 2013: The City advertised a Request for Proposals and selected a consultant.
- March 2014: FTA recently completed processing the grant paperwork. The City is ready to go as soon as final approvals are complete which is anticipated to be in April or early May.
Dates TBD when the project begins:
- Phase 1: Public engagement process and initial project research. (3-4 months, beginning as soon as FTA opens the funding for reimbursement)
- Phase 2: Evaluate the alternatives and prepare the draft report. (9-12 months)
- Phase 3: Review the draft report with the public and FTA, and then finalize the report. (3-6 months)
When the grant report is completed, the City and the Refuge can pursue implementation grants through the same TRIPP program or through other programs.
The first map is an overview of the area. Inset A provides a close-up of Little Island Park launch and the entrance to the Refuge. Inset B provides a close-up of the existing visitor's center in the Refuge.