Va. Secretary of Transportation responds to outcry from Hampton U

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) – New developments Thursday in what had been shaping up to be a battle in the effort to widen a highway in Hampton.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne said Thursday morning that the state will not take any land from Hampton University for the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion. He emphasized that they especially would not take historic land, referring to the Emancipation Oak.

Hampton University has a news conference scheduled for Friday to discuss the matter.

University President, Dr. William Harvey said the school would yield “not one inch” of campus property to VDOT. In a news release issued by the university Wednesday, Harvey said the expansion would threaten the Emancipation Oak, a tree where southern slaves first heard the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863.

He went on to say: “I have little confidence that VDOT appreciates the damage it is about to do.”

In light of Secretary Layne’s promise, made at a meeting of the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization, 10 On Your Side’s Stephanie Harris placed a call to Hampton University to ask if it still plans to have a news conference tomorrow.

Legal counsel for Hampton University released a statement to WAVY News Thursday, which said the school will continue moving forward.

The position of Hampton University is to continue moving forward.  The University cites a history of abuse by the highway department; including taking more property than needed. In one instance, 20 acres of land were taken by highway department, then not used and not returned to Hampton University. Due to this history, Hampton University has to move forward to take every step necessary to make sure the historic property and campus is protected in perpetuity.”