Flyover dumped, for now

Published 10:59 pm Thursday, December 18, 2014

Route 58 overpasses at the Regional Landfill and Hampton Roads Executive Airport are not in the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission’s list of initial projects — contrary to what had been believed.

Known as the US Route 460/58/13 Connector, the $150-million project also involves improving the road to interstate standards between Bowers Hill and the eastern end of the Suffolk Bypass.

Following a request of Virginia Beach Mayor Will Sessoms during a public hearing Nov. 5, money for preliminary engineering work on the project was added to the draft fiscal 2015 budget.

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Commission members approved that budget, apparently advancing eight regional road projects, later on in November.

But when the regional body met Thursday, members and the public learned from commission counsel Tom Inglima that the connector can’t be included in the list of initial projects, because it wasn’t properly included in the required public consultation process.

For the same reason, another Sessoms request commission members thought they had adopted — money toward preliminary engineering and environmental work for phase 2 of the I-64/I-264 Interchange — also didn’t pass through the correct approval process.

Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright asked Thursday what now would become of those two projects. “They are just as important as the other ones,” he said.

Delegate Chris Jones of Suffolk suggested sending them back through the process and then adding them with an amendment. Commission Chairman Alan Krasnoff, Chesapeake’s mayor, said the technical committee was vetting them first.

Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson expressed concerns about the connector. “Suffolk is the home to this landfill, and we have great concerns about how this turns out,” she said.

After the meeting, Johnson said she believed every member of the commission had thought the connector was included.

The project is significant, because it replaces with a flyover a standard intersection across six lanes of high-speed traffic, to a facility where eight Hampton Roads and Western Tidewater localities dump their trash.

Muddying the waters, though, is the uncertain fate of the Southeastern Public Service Authority, the regional body that runs the landfill. The SPSA agreement expires at the beginning of 2018, and so far Virginia Beach is the only participating locality that has voiced clear support for a new agreement.

Suffolk has used the landfill free of charge, and the regional organization recently acquiesced to the city’s request to pay sewer fees for the property.

Suffolk City Council has endorsed spending $11 million across fiscal years 2016 and 2017 on a transfer station, to “consolidate waste at a central location and transfer it to larger vehicles to transport to its ultimate location.”

“Whether SPSA stays together or not, Suffolk needs to find a way to dispose of our garbage,” Johnson said.

Johnson doesn’t expect getting the connector back on track will be a huge problem. “I think I heard three months,” she said of the length of the process.