What were we doing again?

Published 9:02 am Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ah, a new 460. Let’s build it here.

No, let’s build it there.

Okay, but let’s build it this way.

No, let’s build it that way.

What are we building again?

A new 460.

Wait a second, why are we building it again?

Who cares? We have to build something.


Because we said we would.

Oh yeah, good point. Carry on, then.


– Completely fictional conversation that seems likely to have occured in some form or fashion in the offices of “The Powers That Be.”


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly where it feels like we are with respect to the new plans to build a new 460.

Or an old 460.

Or a partially new but mostly old 460.


Since its inception, the bungled mishandling of the new 460 has been a case study in government mismanagement and political ambition gone awry. Long desired by regional-economic-development types and the pet project of former-governor-turned-convicted-felon Bob McDonnell, the new 460 was supposed to be a 55-mile-long limited access superhighway that would stretch from Suffolk all the way to Petersburg and would instantly improve the ease with which cargo could be shipped from the port in Hampton Roads to points north and west. Three-hundred million dollars in unaccounted-for taxpayer funds and not a shovelful of dirt later, we now have a plan for a 17-mile road that would enable vehicles to more quickly travel from Suffolk to Zuni by completely bypassing the town of Windsor and its valuable industrial properties.

The good news is that the new plan reduces to 52 the number of valuable wetland acres that will be disturbed by the bypass, down from around 500. The bad news is that 22 property owners will be displaced.

But hey, doesn’t only 22 privately held pieces of property seem like a fair trade in order to save a few acres of muddy lowground and a few thousand lily pads? Probably not if you were to ask those 22 property owners.

Or anyone else with a pinch of sense, for that matter.

More good news related to the revised plan is that the projected costs for the “new” road would only be somewhere between $375 and $425 million instead of the $1.4 billion that was projected had the new 55-mile road been built in its entirety. The bad news, however, is that with the $300 million already spent on who-knows-what and that nobody seems able to account for, the new 17-mile bypass around Windsor (and its valuable industrial properties) will cost nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars.

True, the new plan calls for a bridge over the Blackwater River in Zuni on a stretch of “old” 460 that floods if too many Zuni homeowners water their lawns at the same time. But for a cool $700 million, I feel like Zuni should at least get a new baseball stadium out of the deal to go along with a shiny new bridge.

Oh yeah, the other piece of good news is that if we ever need to evacuate Hampton Roads in the event of a hurricane, 13,400 vehicles per hour will be able to traverse the new bypass around Windsor (and its valuable industrial properties), instead of the 4,800 that can currently get from Suffolk to Zuni on the old 460 in that same amount of time. The bad news is that if the hurricane decides to make a left turn, the people in those 13,400 cars will all drown in Ivor and Wakefield because of the backup caused by folks making a left turn across traffic attempting to stop for a ham biscuit at The Virginia Diner.

But hey, what do I know? Let’s go on ahead and build the 17-mile bypass around Windsor (and its valuable industrial property) anyway. No, not because it continues to make the first bit of sense. But because we said we would. And that’s apparently all the reason we need.

Tony Clark is publisher of The Tidewater News. His email address is tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.