Public reviews 460 alternative

Published 9:23 pm Friday, May 29, 2015

By Stephen H. Cowles

Special to the News-Herald

Windsor and Suffolk residents who could be potentially affected by the Preferred Alternative 460 had another opportunity on Thursday to review plans, ask questions and, they hoped, get answers.

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Among the 175 people attending the session in Windsor High School were Shirley and Robert Crocker of Cut-Thru Road.

“They give me all the reasons [for the project] and how it’s subject to change,” Robert Crocker said, referring to the attending representatives from the Virginia Department of Transportation. “It could be spent for nought. They’re better off using money to improve the 58 project in Holland, Suffolk.”

Already there’s a red flag for surveying in the Crockers’ backyard. She’s been at that home since her parents bought the property in the late 1930s. If the 17-mile project from Suffolk to Zuni goes through, the couple said, it would divide their farm land. They don’t do the work, though; that’s done by a tenant farmer.

The alternative route is the second plan for a road improvement. Previously, a toll road south of the existing 460 would have gone 55 miles from Suffolk to Petersburg. But that plan hit the brakes last year when the issue of wetlands proved insurmountable. The new road wouldn’t affect as many acres as the first choice.

“It tells me they place more value on wetlands than farmland,” Robert Crocker said about the project.

Among the study team representatives were Paula Miller and Angel Deem. Miller noted there were more residents attending than the May 18 session at King’s Fork High School in Suffolk.

“It’s more of a one-on-one experience,” she said. “They get to ask all their questions. That’s been very well received.”

Miller and Deem both acknowledged that the chief concern they’ve been hearing is how the new plan would impact people’s property or, as some have asked, “How much property are you going to take?”

“They’re very reasonable concerns,” Deem said.
Each woman also said there’s still several unknowns because, as Miller said, “The process is not over yet.”

Windsor Mayor Carita Richardson said she got some answers to her questions but did not elaborate. She did say she learned about three species, including the barking tree frog and a salamander, whose habitats would be endangered by the construction. Richardson said she’s also been listening to residents’ concerns. One of those is how drinking water could be affected if there were an accident near the supply.

With his sons, Brent and Burgess, Gess Wills from Five Forks Road looked over one of the large wall maps showing the proposed alternative. Gess said he’s received a letter from surveyors seeking permission to work sometime from now to July 4.

“I know of no one who wants this,” he said.

Less Babb of Shiloh Drive is no exception. He said if the road were built it would go right through a farm he has on Deer Path Road, cutting off the entrance to the 160-acre property. Wheat, soybeans, peanuts, cotton, corn, cattle and even some produce are found there.

“How can the government waste 10 years and all that money?” Babb asked.

Byron Goodwin of King’s Fork Road in Suffolk said he’s got property close by the alternative route, and is particularly concerned about the extra noise that would be generated by the traffic. He’s also got a lot of friends who will be directly affected.

An engineer who graduated from North Carolina State, he asked of the project’s purpose, “I’m inclined to side with progress, but how much need is there?”