Comment sought on Route 460

Published 7:54 pm Friday, June 17, 2016

The Federal Highway Administration will seek public comment on a plan for U.S. Route 460 starting next week.

Doug Hecox, a spokesman for the Federal Highway Administration, said this is an opportunity for the public to comment on the plan.

“We’re trying to find out what the public thinks based on the plan that is currently devised,” he said. “We want to see what the public thinks about what the plans are so far, if there are a lot of suggestions for change or things that might make it a better project.”

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Hecox said the public comment period, which will begin as soon as the project is posted in the Federal Register — June 24 is the anticipated date — is part of the environmental review of the project. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is also undertaking a separate but concurrent review, Hecox said.

He said this step does not mean the road has been approved.

“There’s no predisposition toward anything at this point,” he said.

The Route 460 project has been under way for many years, but no physical progress has been made toward building the road.

The troubled project has undergone several iterations over the years.

The original proposal would have impacted hundreds of acres of wetlands, causing much concern that the Corps of Engineers would not grant a permit for the project.

In April 2015, Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s administration terminated the contract with a private consortium that aimed to build the road.

The original contract was for construction of a new, limited-access four-lane toll road running 55 miles between Suffolk and Petersburg, at an estimated cost of $1.4 billion.

Pitched by the McDonnell administration as a much-needed evacuation route for Hampton Roads and northeast North Carolina, an economic stimulus for Western Tidewater and a strategic military asset, the project was pushed forward without an environmental approval from the Corps.

Citing these concerns, McAuliffe suspended contract spending on the project in one of his first major public policy decisions after taking office in January 2014.

At the beginning of 2015, VDOT, the Corps and the Federal Highway Administration outlined a new plan they deemed environmentally feasible. That plan involves a new four-lane road stretching about 12 miles from Suffolk to west of Windsor, and thereafter improving the existing road a further five miles, including a new bridge across the flood-prone Blackwater River.