Del. Phil Hamilton, R- Newport News, wants to know if the private sector can accomplish something that government has failed to do: expand the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

Under that scenario, a contractor would enter into a 50-year agreement to expand the bridge-tunnel by two lanes and assume responsibility for maintaining it. In return, the contractor would receive money from a toll on the bridge-tunnel.

Hamilton outlined his plan in a letter to Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer Tuesday. He is asking the department to issue a request for proposals.

He suggested a $2 toll on the bridge-tunnel as well as the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. Tolls on the latter span could finance the widening of Interstate 664 and other projects.

Hamilton said he does not know if a private firm would take on the task, but the state must explore all possibilities.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine wants to call a special session to deal with transportation funding, and that includes a regional plan for Hampton Roads. But Hamilton said he is increasingly worried lawmakers will not agree on a regional plan, another plan for northern Virginia, plus statewide funding for road maintenance that Kaine seeks.

Hamilton and Del. Glenn Oder, R-Newport News, have already asked the state to study widening the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel by two lanes.

If a private firm comes forward, that company might also agree to do the study, Hamilton said.

New plan for the HRBT

Del. Phil Hamilton, R-Newport News, has asked the state to seek proposals from private contractors to expand the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.