Show us the money

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, November 20, 2008

Now that the Planning Commission has postponed a vote on the CenterPoint Properties development that would sit adjacent to Route 58 — citing concerns about the traffic impact the warehousing and distribution center would have along the already-overburdened highway — there’s one thing the city needs to say to state and federal government officials interested in the project: Show us the money.

Planners tabled discussion of the company’s rezoning request for up to 90 days on Wednesday to give company and city officials time to find more partners to share the cost of widening Route 58 to accommodate both CenterPoint’s trucks and the traffic that already had been projected to turn a portion of the road into a parking lot within the next 20 years.

Some have called on the developers to foot the bill for improving Route 58. Indeed, CenterPoint officials proffered $3.46 million toward the improvements in return for a thumbs-up on their rezoning request. But they also pointed out that the highway’s traffic problem would exist with or without the project, and they balked at providing a significant portion of the money that would be needed to fix it.

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The cheapest of alternatives — widening the road to six lanes from the bypass to Manning Bridge Road — would cost $94 million, according to projections by the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission. Added to Suffolk’s previous financial commitment to the project, CenterPoint’s proffer means that not quite $5 million has been set aside to make the improvements. Someone eventually will have to pay the balance of that bill.

During the next 90 days, city leaders should bang on every door in Richmond with that bill in one hand and a copy of the latest unemployment report in the other. CenterPoint could be a big part of the answer to Western Tidewater’s economic woes, but it won’t happen without support from the state.

State economic development and ports officials have said they would “do anything” to help the project move forward. How about this: Show us the money.