Road priorities set

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, February 18, 2016

A group of regional leaders on Thursday approved a priority list for six transportation projects.

“Our task at hand is how best to represent the region’s priority projects,” said Robert Crum, executive director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization. “The good news is we are starting to see some significant progress.”

Crum noted that the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission has allocated more than $600 million since July to go to local projects.

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The first projects to be completed under the plan, pitched as one that would bring fiscal constraint, will be the widening of Interstate 64 on the Peninsula and the improvement of the interstates 64 and 264 interchange.

Next would come the first phase of the widening of Interstate 64 on the Southside and associated improvements to the High Rise Bridge.

Next is the first phase of a third harbor crossing, but the exact form that project will take has not yet been decided. An environmental impact study for the project is proposed.

Delegate Chris Jones advised the group in a Jan. 27 letter not to include a specific crossing project in its plan. He urged the group to include a “placeholder project” instead.

“I would recommend HRTPO not include a specific harbor crossing project in its long-range transportation plan,” Jones wrote. “In my opinion, it would not be responsible to add a specific project to the long range plan in 2016 as it may not be the preferred alternative identified by VDOT in the ongoing study. This could be considered to prejudge the outcome of the environmental study, potentially jeopardizing needed federal approval and creating expectations from citizens that may not be achievable.”

After the third crossing would come the second phase of the Southside Interstate 64 widening, followed finally by improvements to the Fort Eustis/Interstate 64 interchange and the Routes 460/58/13 connector — the only project on the list that is located in part in Suffolk.

“We want to make sure we maintain the importance of these in our long-range transportation plan,” Crum said.

The region is looking at approximately $6.6 billion in transportation funding from this year through 2040.