Letter: Transfer 460 funding to Third Crossing

Published 8:44 pm Monday, November 7, 2011

A group of business and political leaders has recommended that the state put the brakes on the U.S. Route 460 project and divert public money already dedicated to it to the Patriots Crossing project instead.

The Hampton Roads Partnership made the recommendation in an Oct. 27 letter to Sean T. Connaughton, secretary of transportation for the state. The group says Patriots Crossing will do a better job of relieving congestion in the area.

That bucks the established priorities of Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has made a new Route 460 his top transportation focus since the beginning of his term.

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Patriots Crossing would be a four-lane bridge-tunnel system between Interstate 564 in Norfolk and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. It also would connect to Craney Island in Portsmouth via the Craney Island connector.

Champions of Route 460 say it would improve a designated evacuation route for South Hampton Roads and encourage commerce into and out of the area. Three companies currently are compiling detailed proposals to construct and build the road.

Tolls on the new alignment, which would be roughly parallel to the old one, could range from $5.50 to $11 for cars, and even more for tractor-trailers.

But the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization recently prioritized all the region’s major transportation projects, putting the Patriots Crossing project second-highest in the region. Improvements to the Downtown and Midtown tunnels came first.

“The Partnership endorses the TPO prioritization of projects in Hampton Roads,” says the letter from Deborah DiCroce, chairman of the board of directors of the partnership.

The partnership said Patriots Crossing would make a significant near-term contribution to easing traffic congestion and stimulating job growth and enhance the area’s attractiveness to the military. In addition, it said, related projects already are fully funded and are near construction.

“It will strongly support growth of trade through the Port of Virginia, especially the Virginia Port Authority terminals, and it will greatly increase the attractiveness of Hampton Roads as a location for export-related manufacturing,” the letter states.

It also will increase attractiveness to the Navy, the letter said.

“The U.S. Navy in Hampton Roads has long identified a third crossing of the Elizabeth River in the vicinity of Naval Station Norfolk as a top priority for improving the regional transportation infrastructure,” the letter says, adding the Patriots Crossing will ease congestion for Navy commuters and “enhance the movement of mission-critical logistics shipments to and from Naval Station Norfolk — a major air and sea logistics node supporting U.S. forces in the Middle East and Europe.”

Furthermore, the partnership said, the Route 460 project could not have its desired effect of relieving congestion if it is completed before other projects such as widening interstates 664 and 64.

The partnership stressed in its letter that it is not against the Route 460 project, calling it “a good project.” But, it said, “the Patriots Crossing will have much greater near-term impact on easing traffic congestion and stimulating job growth in Hampton Roads.

The partnership concluded by recommending that the project be added to the governor’s Transportation Funding Plan with construction starting as soon as possible, that the Route 460 project be deferred for future construction and that public funds for the Route 460 project be reallocated to Patriots Crossing.