Can Hampton Roads and Richmond become a megaregion?

NORFOLK, Va. - A new report examines how Richmond and Hampton Roads could work together to become a megaregion.

The idea is discussed in Old Dominion University's 2017 State of the Commonwealth report. "We need to find a way to spur regional cooperation instead of each city, each locality competing against each other for jobs and businesses," said Robert McNab, one of the authors of the report and an economics professor at ODU.

The two localities are linked in several ways, including through transportation and the Port of Virginia. "The closer we can work together as a region, between Hampton Roads and Richmond, the better off the Commonwealth is as a whole."

More than 86,000 people commuted for work between Hampton Roads and Richmond in 2014, which the report says is  a bigger connection that some might have thought. Speeding up the widening of 64 would help the connections between the two areas, the report says.

One of the questions posed is whether Hampton Roads needs two airports and Richmond needs one. McNab says one larger airport would likely attract more direct service to cities. Other ideas include more development at the Port of Virginia, which is centered in Hampton Roads, but has a location in Richmond, and thinking about a high-speed rail between the areas.

A recent initiative, called GO Virginia, is a step in the right direction, the report says. GO Virginia encourages collaboration between areas to boost the economy.

"What we're arguing here in the megaregion concept is we need to step beyond just cities," McNab says.