With the support of a federal grant, Williamsburg Area Transit Authority and Hampton Roads Transit have teamed up to provide bus access to the Lackey Free Clinic. Lackey Free Clinic provides free medical services for those who meet eligibility requirements within York County, the City of Williamsburg, Poquoson, James City County and Newport News.
The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Grant, which amounts to a total of $785,009, is funded by 80 percent federal and 20 percent state funds. These funds support all the operating costs associated with the route, which will operate on a Monday through Saturday pilot route on an hourly services schedule for up to three years.
The proposed route would provide service to Lackey Free Clinic, the JCC Government Complex, Riverside Doctors’ Hospital, the Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail and the Naval Weapons Station among other locations. It would also offer connection to Hampton Roads Transit via Lee Hall.
According to Virginia Senator Monty Mason ’89 (D-Williamsburg) and Virginia Delegate Mike Mullin (D-Newport News), access to the clinic is crucial for the upper peninsula community, as Lackey Free Clinic provides services for over 1,200 patients per year. However, the current bus stop closest to the clinic is 3.9 miles away, which Mullin said makes clinic access difficult for many patients who rely on it for key health services.
“Walking down a high-speed, one-lane road when you are in need of medical care is not safe,” Mullin said. “Great medical care isn’t useful if you can’t get to it.”
According to Mason, this project is a result of years of advocacy for increased bus access to Lackey Free Clinic and a continuation of the work that the late Virginia Senator John Miller (D-Williamsburg) did in his time as senator.
We missed an early opportunity for a grant, but we just kept telling everybody that we were not going to go away, that this was something that we wanted to see, we needed to make happen, and we just kept pushing and pushing,” Mason said.
“We missed an early opportunity for a grant, but we just kept telling everybody that we were not going to go away, that this was something that we wanted to see, we needed to make happen, and we just kept pushing and pushing,” Mason said.
Mason said this project is something he has been committed to for a long time and that he is thrilled that WATA took this initiative. However, he stressed that there is still a lot of work to be done on the project and that the focus of the next three years will be on proving how important this route is.
“I don’t care how old I am and in what position I am — I’m going to keep advocating for bus service to Lackey as long as I’m on the planet,” Mason said.
Mason said that while many of the constituents affected by this lack of accessibility aren’t able to advocate for themselves, people who work at Lackey Free Clinic and community leaders have told him they saw this as a top priority. Mason also said that increased transportation would create more volunteer opportunities for students at the College of William and Mary or other community members, whom Lackey relies on to sustain operations.
According to Mason, the biggest challenge in creating this route was coordinating between the three different governmental organizations that operate in Newport News, James City County and York County, but that receiving this grant is a success story.
“It’s a great example of how multiple different organizations and public policy initiatives all intersect, which made it difficult, but even all the more important,” Mason said.
According to Barbara Creel, the budget and grants administrator for WATA, a condition of the original grant awarded for this route is that it must provide service to the JCC Government Complex on Mounts Bay Road. However, significant interest in extending WATA service to the Lackey Free Clinic, the Yorktown area and Riverside Doctors’ Hospital helped WATA develop the plan for the new proposed route.
Creel said that another important consideration they took into account was how this route would be integrated into WATA’s current system.
“The proposed route would connect to our Gray Line at two stops, Riverside Doctors’ Hospital and Lee Hall, and to our Orange Line at Colonial Behavioral Health,” Creel said in an email. “At Lee Hall, riders would also be able to transfer to and from Hampton Roads Transit, providing a key regional connection.”
WATA will be holding five public hearings over the course of February and March to receive community input on the proposed new route. The WATA Board of Directors will also have a meeting, open to the public, Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 10 a.m. at the Stryker Center on North Boundary Street in Williamsburg.
We anticipate presenting the feedback to our Board in March, making revisions to the route as needed and then finalizing and approving the route during the April meeting,” Creel said.
“We anticipate presenting the feedback to our Board in March, making revisions to the route as needed and then finalizing and approving the route during the April meeting,” Creel said.
While the grant funds the pilot route for three years after operations begin, what happens to the route after that time is still uncertain.
Mullin said that he hopes this route will become a permanent fixture of regular transportation services.
“I think that what we’re going to see is that there has been a pent up need for service along this line and that, very quickly once it’s up and running, we’re going to see this be integrated not just to the pilot program, but as part of regular service for both WATA and HRT,” Mullin said.