Road money slashed

Published 10:40 pm Saturday, November 21, 2009

With state budgets being slashed by the millions, transportation projects are being cut because there simply isn’t enough money to go around, said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer.

“Probably the largest single issue with the revenue reductions is, Hampton Roads is predominantly cities and unfortunately the revenue situation is such we will be ending the annual allocation of state and federal funds to localities,” Homer said. “There’s just not enough money to allow all 185 localities to have a construction allowance.”

The total revenue reduction throughout the state is about $855 million over six years, Homer said. Not all the funds are coming out of construction — maintenance funds are being slashed, and the revenue sharing program is being canceled.

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The cuts spell bad news for localities across Virginia, but particularly in Hampton Roads, where transportation is vital to the economy’s livelihood and already is at a breaking point.

“That has very significant and negative impacts on individual jurisdictions, particularly the growing jurisdictions like Chesapeake and Suffolk,” Homer said. Money previously allocated for secondary roads is being redirected to interstates and major primary roads.

No state money is allocated for the widening of U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk, Homer said. The project is sorely needed, and will become even more vital when the CenterPoint Properties intermodal center begins operations along the corridor.

“There is no additional funding for the Route 58 improvements to serve the intermodal facility,” Homer said. “We don’t have that kind of money.”

Homer did not that some preliminary engineering funding had been allocated to begin designing the lane reversal on Route 58 for purposes of hurricane evacuations. He also pointed to other positives to the east — the Gilmerton Bridge is fully funded and under construction, and the Jordan Bridge should be under construction soon.

“There is some additional funding for the Midtown Tunnel project,” Homer said. “Lastly, there is adequate funding to build, in the outyears of the program, the Interstate 564 connector. That will be a tremendous help to folks working at the Navy base, and will keep trucks off Hampton Boulevard.

To attempt to get the Route 58 project funded, Suffolk submitted a grant application for federal stimulus funds through the Grants for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery — or TIGER discretionary grants. City staff expect to know early next year whether their application was accepted.