Cautious optimism on new plan for 460

Published 8:42 pm Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Provided by state officials, this map shows the “Eastern Terminus” of a proposed new alternative for the Route 460 project at Route 58 in Suffolk, and the west of the route heading west.

Provided by state officials, this map shows the “Eastern Terminus” of a proposed new alternative for the Route 460 project at Route 58 in Suffolk, and the west of the route heading west.

Reaction to the Virginia Department of Transportation’s new plan to improve Route 460, in Suffolk and further west along the existing highway, could be described as tentatively positive.

The “potential recommended preferred alternative,” announced Monday, consists of a new four-lane divided highway from the Suffolk Bypass to west of Windsor, a new bypass around Windsor to the north, and upgrading the road thereafter to just west of Zuni, with a new bridge across the Blackwater River.

The 17-mile-long plan — down significantly from the previous plan’s 55 miles — is environmentally feasible from the perspective of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, officials say.

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Suffolk businessman Ralph Nahra said he would need look at the details before reaching a conclusion about the proposal. But generally, he said, the new section would have only a positive impact on the 37 acres of land he owns on Suffolk’s Murphys Mill Road, with 2,000 feet of frontage on the Suffolk Bypass.

The project may take a small slice, Nahra said, but “they are going to have to put in ramps, and that helps the ingress and egress to the property.”

“We need to do something with 460,” he said. “I’m more concerned with evacuation in case of a hurricane.”

The project would help businesses along the route, Nahra added. “We need to move on it.”

Among landowners along the section that would be upgraded who are now breathing a sigh of relief is L.A. Brantley Jr.

The 77-year-old’s Ivor farm, which has been in the family since the turn of the last century, would be spared under the new plan to upgrade instead of build between an area west of Windsor and west of Zuni.

Brantley had expected the previously planned new toll road between Suffolk and Petersburg to take 50 acres of his land, including 17 acres of cultivation and the balance valuable timber, as well as a house.

“The old plan was destroying a lot of wetlands, timberland and farming land,” Brantley said.

“I’m glad to see the change … that will keep from destroying this valuable farmland. I think they are going in the right direction, and they are going to save some money.”

City of Suffolk spokeswoman Diana Klink stated that city staff would be contacting VDOT staff to “further discuss the proposed alignment.”

They’re interested in learning about any “land use, economic and traffic implications for the city,” Klink added.

“City staff is encouraged by the announcement as it represents a major regulatory milestone being achieved for this very important project,” Klink stated.

Late Tuesday, it was unclear whether the new plan involves a different alignment for the new road inside Suffolk city limits, including the eastern terminus, than previously outlined. By deadline, VDOT had not responded to a request to clarify the situation.

According to reports, Windsor officials, who had requested that any new road bypass the town to the south instead of the opted-for north, are concerned by the plans, saying residents would be left stranded.

From the perspective of the ports, whose truck traffic is expected to be a major user of the upgraded road, “In short we’re glad there appears to be a solution and we’ll support it however we’re asked,” Port of Virginia spokesman Joe Harris wrote in an email.