James City County Supervisor Michael Hipple was elected chairman of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission on Thursday afternoon.
The commission, commonly referred to as HRTAC, works with the General Assembly and Virginia Department of Transportation to determine how to allocate nearly $200 million set aside for state transportation projects annually, according to the commission’s website.
Hipple said he looked forward to taking on the responsibility, including finding ways to relieve traffic congestion while being fiscally prudent.
“It’s gonna be a big deal for James City County and also for the region,” Hipple said. “Everybody knows that transportation is a big ticket item in the state of Virginia.”
Hipple is stepping up from his role as vice-chair to the chairmanship. He takes the role of chair from Virginia Beach’s representative, William Sessoms, Jr., whose two-year term ran up June 15.
“I feel like he has some big shoes to fill,” HRTAC executive director Kevin Page said of Hipple.
“Sessoms served as HRTAC’s second chairman since the commission formed, and he was able to bring together the interests of the region over the interests of individual localities, Page said.
Under Sessoms’ tenure, the commission began with only one project in the works: the Interstate 64 widening segment one, Page said. Two years later, HRTAC has more than a dozen project agreements and helps manage more than $1.5 billion in infrastructure projects.
Hipple’s already off to a good start though, according to Page. At the Thursday meeting of commissioners, Hipple lead a discussion with VDOT to save nearly $200 million from the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel contingency fund.
Williamsburg Mayor Paul Freiling said he felt confident Hipple was a good fit for the role.
“It’s a very positive step for Greater Williamsburg, but really for all of Hampton Roads,” Freiling said. “In his time serving on these regional boards Mr. Hipple has shown himself to be a leader and a person of sense.”
Page said the commissioners’ unanimous vote for Hipple showed their confidence in his ambitious plans — such alleviating traffic congestion at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.
“Mr. Hipple did a great job as the vice chair, and I would say the commission’s unanimous approval is his vote of confidence,” Page said.