On their way

Published 9:30 pm Saturday, June 12, 2010

With site work about to get under way at the CenterPoint Intermodal Center on Holland Road, the time for a plan for that crowded highway has all but passed.

Developers announced earlier this month that they are looking for bids from companies that wish to prepare the sprawling property for the roads, buildings and other improvements that will be necessary to support the eventual 5.8 million square feet of light and heavy industrial, distribution, office space and general commercial facilities that are planned for the 930-acre site.

When it is finally up and running, the CenterPoint property will be a transfer point for containers full of goods headed to and from the Port of Virginia in Portsmouth. As such, rail will be an important component of the company’s transportation offerings, and a rail yard adjacent to the CSX line that runs through the property will help provide that flexibility.

Unfortunately, however, the railroad is not likely to be the primary transportation hub at CenterPoint. A huge proportion of the company’s expected customer base will use Route 58 to pick up and deliver those containers full of consumer goods. That means the already-overtaxed highway will become ever more congested as the company’s business increases.

CenterPoint has promised to donate $3.5 million to the effort. That commitment, however, means little when put up against the estimated $90 million to $200 million it will take to either widen Route 58 or build a bypass.

The time is well past for an intervention and a solution to the potential crippling of Suffolk’s transportation infrastructure. Suffolk has agreed to shoulder a significant portion of the load when it comes to supporting Virginia’s international ports, which in turn bring the commonwealth significant tax revenue each year. It would be appropriate for Virginia to respond by helping the city out.

But neither local officials nor state legislators — not even the federal government — have been moved enough by the pending crisis in Suffolk to offer a plan to fix Route 58 before it’s broken beyond imagination. (The road currently handles about 200,000 vehicles a day; imagine it when hundreds of trucks bound to and from Suffolk are added to the mix.)

It’s time for Gov. Bob McDonnell to step up and offer a plan of his own to solve the problem looming on Suffolk’s horizon. As a candidate for governor, McDonnell stressed two things as his priorities — jobs and transportation. It could hardly be truer anywhere else that those two issues are inextricably linked along Holland Road in Suffolk. If the governor is serious about doing something to improve the situation for either issue here locally, he’ll act quickly. The trucks are on their way.