Group proposes 460 alternative

Published 10:28 pm Tuesday, August 2, 2016

An environmental group based in Richmond has submitted comments regarding the Route 460 project proposal.

The Southern Environmental Law Center is pleased a previous proposal that would build a new, 55-mile highway from Suffolk to Petersburg is no longer being pursued, according to a letter it sent last week. But many of its concerns remain with a scaled-down, 16-mile version that would build 12 miles of new highways.

Trip Pollard, senior attorney with the group, said the group proposes improvements to the existing highway.

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“This document doesn’t consider the alternatives with improving the existing highway,” Pollard said this week. “The proposal VDOT is currently promoting, we think, is too costly, too destructive, and it leaves the bulk of the problems on 460 unaddressed.”

The current proposal for the $450 million project includes a new, four-lane, divided highway between U.S. Route 58 in Suffolk to west of Windsor, including a bypass. From west of Windsor to one mile west of Zuni, the existing road would be reconstructed and upgraded to a four-lane divided highway, with a new bridge across the Blackwater River.

“It does nothing for the rest of the corridor,” Pollard said.

Pollard’s letter says the new proposal would affect 39.8 acres of wetlands, 6,784 linear feet of streams and numerous tributaries to drinking water supplies for the region, including Lake Prince and Lake Meade.

“This project, even though it’s far less destructive than the 55-mile option, is still permitting one of the greatest wetlands losses ever since the Clean Water Act,” Pollard said. “We think it’s inadequate under federal law. We think (they) can’t proceed without looking at these reasonable alternatives.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center hired an engineer to look at the project and show what the group believes is a better alternative.

“We think it’s a far better use of taxpayer money to improve the existing corridor,” Pollard said.

The group believes making improvements to the existing highway in the town of Windsor is feasible, a conclusion dismissed earlier by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Windsor has opposed the current plan, which includes a bypass around the town.

The SELC’s proposed improvements in Windsor could incorporate a 13-foot, two-way left-turn lane, instead of a 16-foot median, reducing the width of the right-of-way needed for the project, the engineer’s report stated.

Improvements to the existing highway also would cost less and have fewer impacts on wetlands, homes and businesses than the current proposal, according to the report. The road would be upgraded to modern design standards, eliminate flooding issues and still allow access to businesses.

“We think it will actually improve that stretch, not only for safety but also for the community,” Pollard said.

Visit to see more of the plans for the road or submit your own comments.