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VDOT provides answers to questions about U.S. 460

Thursday night members of the Suffolk City Council sat down to dinner with state lawmakers to discuss some of the most important items on the city’s legislative agenda. One topic was the realignment of and improvements to U.S. 460.

The roadway is critical to the region’s transportation system and economic future, and is a designated hurricane evacuation route for the Southside Hampton Roads communities, despite the fact that it often closes in inclement weather, say city officials.

In an effort to understand what has happened and is happening with the U.S. 460 project, the News-Herald contacted Virginia Department of Transportation officials with some basic questions. Jeff Hetzer, in Innovative Project Delivery Division with VDOT, provided the following.

Q. What are the proposed locations for the new U.S. 460?

A. In November 2005, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which regulates and funds transportation in Virginia, chose Candidate Build Alternative 1 as the alternative that best meets the purpose and needs for this project.

CBA-1 follows an alignment that is south of existing Rt. 460. It is a four-lane (2 lanes per direction) divided highway, and access to the towns and major secondary roads would be provided at nine interchange locations: Rt. 58 Bypass in Suffolk; Rt. 258 in Windsor; Rt. 616 south of Ivor; Rt. 620 south of Wakefield; Rt. 40 south of Waverly; Rt. 602 west of Waverly; Rt. 625 south of Disputanta; Rt. 156 in Prince George County and at Interstate 295.

In an effort to minimize impacts to homes, VDOT developed a shift in the CBA-1 alignment in Isle of Wight County. While the CTB endorsed CBA-1 as presented at the hearings, they did ask VDOT to give further consideration to this shift.

A Final Environmental Impact Statement is being prepared with specific information about the CTB preferred alternative and will be sent to the Federal Highway Administration for approval. The FEIS should be completed by Winter 2006/2007.

Once FHWA issues its approval n called a Record of Decision n

roadway design, right of way acquisition, and construction can begin.

At this point, there is no alignment that is final and binding until the procurement process is complete and an agreement is signed with the successful offeror.

Q. We thought the project was hanging in limbo, waiting for state support and funding.

A. Project actions are generally the responsibility of the CTB. VDOT is proceeding with the project consistent with directions and the required procurement process. VDOT has received three conceptual proposals for the project that include funding plans that would allow construction of the project. The level of state funding required for this project (if any) has not been determined at this time.

Q. What are the next steps for the project?

A. The three conceptual proposals are anticipated to advance to the Independent Review Panel (IRP) phase of procurement in the near future. The IRP will be charged with review and analysis of each proposal, receiving public comments regarding the project, and determining which, if any, proposals are recommended to proceed further in the procurement process.

Q. What is the cost estimate for the project?

A. The three conceptual proposals have an estimated project costs in the range of $1 billion to $2 billion. VDOT’s current estimate for the project is in that range.

 

Q. How many people, businesses will the new route displace? Will the state compensate them?

A. It is too early in the procurement process to determine how many people or businesses will be impacted because there is no final decision as yet on the new location. VDOT is expected to handle any right of way procurements for this project consistent with state requirements and law. Generally speaking, VDOT seeks to minimize impacts to people and business to the extent possible and is required to compensate landowners for the fair market value of their property.

Q. How would this new route be safer, more efficient than the current one?

A. The new route is anticipated to be a four lane limited access highway with a median. By design, limited access roadways are safer than an open access highway without medians (like the current Rt. 460), as there are fewer places for vehicles to enter and leave the highway, fewer distractions, less stops and starts, and more space (medians and shoulders) between vehicles. Thus, there are fewer opportunities for collisions. These and other design features make the new road a significantly safer road. The new roadway will be designed and built on a higher grade than the current Rt. 460 such that flooding should not occur. Thus, the new roadway would be much less likely to experience flooding and road closures such as those experienced on the existing highway.

According to the VDOT Web site, www.virginiadot.org, other reasons for improving Rt. 460 include:

n Address roadway deficiencies: Route 460 has design and operational deficiencies that cause safety and mobility problems.

n Improve safety: Crash rates for Route 460 are higher than other similar roadways in Virginia.

n Accommodate increasing freight shipments: Truck percentages for Route 460 are significantly higher than national averages for similar rural roads. Truck traffic is forecasted to grow due to expansions at the Port of Virginia.

n Reduce travel delay: Future traffic volumes will result in increased travel delays on Route 460 due to capacity limitations at traffic signals and the lack of access control.

n Provide adequate hurricane evacuation capability: Route 460 is a designated hurricane evacuation route for Hampton Roads communities.

n Assure strategic military importance: Route 460 is part of the Strategic Highway Network

designated by the Department of Defense and the Federal Highway Administration.

n Meet legislative mandate: Federal legislation, as well as the Virginia Transportation Act of 2000, identified the roadway as a high priority corridor for improvement.

n Meet local economic development plans: Localities within the Route 460 study area have identified the need for transportation improvements to meet their economic development objectives.