Bye-bye bypass project

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The long-talked-about Southeast Suffolk Bypass is no longer on the city’s wish list to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

After a VDOT consultant advised Wednesday that building the proposed 6.5-mile bypass isn’t feasible, the Suffolk City Council unanimously agreed to refocus its efforts on other highway projects.

Email newsletter signup

The roadway, which was to have linked the recently opened Southwest Suffolk Bypass and U.S. Route 58, had no scheduled start date.

Several council members, including Councilman Charles Brown, voiced support for stepping away from the project.

&uot;It’s a dead horse,&uot; he said. &uot;When the horse is dead, there is no need to get back on it.&uot;

Parts of the bypass would have cut through the Great Dismal Swamp and Wildlife Refuge, said Williams J. Cashman, principal transportation planner with URS Corp.

&uot;We can’t avoid the wetlands impact to the wildlife refuge,&uot; said Cashman. &uot;…We think that would be an issue with the federal environmental agencies.&uot;

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department has indicated it would not support the project, he added.

In an April 23 letter to VDOT, the agency has determined that the project would have &uot;unacceptable impacts to our trust resources… and that the service is opposed to construction of the Southeast Suffolk Bypass.&uot;

The letter also indicated the agency would not be willing to grant right-of-way easements through its property.

The city is backing URS’ recommendation, said Jerryl Phillips, a plans and policy officer for the city.

The bypass would also divert traffic from downtown Suffolk, which could go against the city’s efforts to revitalize that area, Phillips said.

&uot;A healthy amount of congestion is a good thing,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s an indicator of economic vitality.&uot;

Although the project is in the city’s 2018 Comprehensive Plan, it will be written out next year as the city begins its five-year review of the plan, Phillips said.