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City gets road funding

Three Suffolk transportation projects have been fully funded by a new statewide process designed to allocate money based on return on investment.

The Holland Road widening, intersection improvements at Shoulders Hill and Bridge roads, and a park-and-ride lot at Godwin Boulevard and Route 58 were given a total of about $54.3 million in funding.

“It is really good for us,” city Public Works Director Eric Nielsen said. “We’re excited.”

The Holland Road widening project will add a lane in each direction from the west end of the bypass to about three-quarters of a mile west of Manning Bridge Road. The allocation process added about $39 million to the project’s funding, which previously had about $34 million in public funding and $3.5 million of funding from a private developer that paid for design.

Nielsen said the city is in the process of acquiring property it needs to complete the project. Construction should start in 2019 or 2020, he added.

Money for the project will come in each year through 2021, said Sherry Earley of the Public Works Department.

“It takes about a year to do the right-of-way and utility relocations, so you don’t need all the money up front,” Nielsen added.

For the intersection improvements at Shoulders Hill and Bridge roads, the city will receive about $14.7 million to add to previous funding of $2.4 million.

“It’s going to take us probably a year and a half to two years to design,” Nielsen said.

The city received about $604,000 to add to previous funding of $526,000 for the Godwin Boulevard park-and-ride lot, which will receive improvements similar to what the Magnolia lot on Portsmouth Boulevard has recently received — new pavement, lighting, landscaping and the like.

Now that several sorely needed projects are fully funded, Nielsen already is thinking about what projects the city will submit for consideration next year.

“We’d really like to see a parallel Godwin Bridge on Route 17,” Nielsen said. “That continues to worry us. It’s never good closing the Godwin Bridge.”

The new prioritization process is called “SMART Scale: Funding the Right Transportation Projects in Virginia.” It was previously called simply House Bill 2 or HB2, for the legislation that established it. “SMART” stands for System for the Management and Allocation of Resources for Transportation.

The new process evaluates projects based on improvements to safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development and the environment.

Previously, Nielsen said, allocations were made mostly based on population, which meant smaller localities were at a disadvantage when it came to funding needed projects.

“In the past, Virginia had a politically driven and opaque transportation funding process that was filled with uncertainty for local communities and businesses,” Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne stated in a press release Tuesday announcing the funding.

“The SMART SCALE process makes the best use of renewed state funding approved in 2013 and the recently approved federal transportation bill. Each project was scored based on its merits and value.”

In all, $1.7 billion in funding was approved to build 163 projects statewide.

“Over the last three years, we have made major improvements to how Virginia funds and selects its transportation projects,” Delegate Chris Jones stated in the press release.

“These are major steps that will allow us to build the 21st-century transportation system Virginians need and deserve. I am proud to say we are putting good governance and taxpayers ahead of partisanship and politics.”