VDOT outlines new 460 process

Published 9:33 am Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Special to The Tidewater News

The Virginia Department of Transportation expects to announce a preferred alternative for improving Route 460 by the end of the year, its spokeswoman Tamara Rollison said.

VDOT is working with the Federal Highway Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers “at a steady pace” to evaluate the environmental impacts of five alternatives, Rollison stated in a news release.

“Information is being analyzed to evaluate the potential social, economic and environmental impacts of the project that will be reviewed by the public this fall,” she said.

One alternative being studied is the four-lane tolled road just south of the existing 460, identified as the preferred alternative in the original environmental study.

In March, state Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne announced that spending on contract work had been frozen, citing the Corps’ concerns over wetlands impacts and the lack of all necessary permits.

At that point, Layne said, $300 million had been spent on the project. The stop-work order came soon after Gov. Terry McAuliffe took office and expressed concerns over how the project had been handled, including his predecessor Bob McDonnell’s aggressive push to get it built despite the concerns.

The other four alternatives outlined by Rollison include:

• A four-lane road running along the existing 460, with six bypasses around towns evaluated as both tolled and not tolled.

• A four-lane tolled road running north of the existing 460.

• Rebuilding the existing 460 to meet standards for pavement, medians, shoulders and intersections.

• An eight-lane road with two eastbound and two westbound lanes tolled, and the remaining four lanes untolled local roads with an eastbound and westbound lane on each side of the tolled road. At the bypasses, the local lanes merge onto the existing 460 through the towns and the tolled lanes follow the bypass route.

According to Rollison, the team working on updating the environmental impact study is collecting information “about a variety of environmental issues,” including wetlands, streams, air and noise quality, wildlife habitat and historical resources.

“The team is also looking at social issues such as right-of-way requirements, effects on minority populations, and potential relocation of … businesses and utilities,” she stated.

“Care is also being taken to consider how a new or improved Route 460 fits in with local comprehensive plans.”

After the new information is collated into a draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, it is anticipated that public meetings will take place along the corridor in the fall.

VDOT will include “how the agency addresses public comments and new information” in the final SEIS, slated for release by the end of the year and naming a preferred alternative, according to Rollison.

“The purpose of the project is to improve transportation and safety, provide a faster hurricane evacuation route, enhance movement for trucks coming from the Port of Virginia, improve connectivity for the military and create job and economic opportunities on the Route 460 corridor in southeastern Virginia,” she stated.