VDOT continues study of Preferred Alternative to Route 460

Published 10:51 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015

by Charlie Kilpatrick

I would like to thank you for your patience and cooperation while the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) considers improvements to the Route 460 corridor in southeastern Virginia. VDOT in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), continues to study the corridor and the proposed Preferred Alternative, which consists of 17 miles of improvements from west of Zuni to Route 58.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) adopted a resolution on Feb. 18, 2015, approving this Preferred Alternative for the Route 460 project. It is the result of a combination of alternatives — which included five build options and a no-build option, that were evaluated in the Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The Draft SEIS was made available in September 2014 and presented at three Location Public Hearings in October 2014.

Following the publication of the Draft SEIS, it became apparent that the improvements evaluated over the entire 55-mile corridor would not be viable options, based on public comments that were received, preliminary input regarding the estimated environmental impacts and anticipated cost constraints. As a result, the alternatives that were studied in the Draft SEIS were carefully reconsidered — in whole, in parts and in combination with one another — with the goal of identifying a single alternative that would best meet the identified project purpose and need, while minimizing environmental impacts and providing the most cost effective project.

The 17 miles of improvements included in the Preferred Alternative would consist of a new four-lane divided highway between the Route 460/Route 58 interchange in Suffolk to west of Windsor. From west of Windsor to west of Zuni, the existing Route 460 would be upgraded to a four-lane divided highway and include a new bridge across the Blackwater River, to eliminate long standing flood problems. Properties west of these 17 miles, in Prince George, Sussex and Surry counties, will not be affected — even those previously considered during the Location Public Hearings.

Right of way acquisition and construction cannot begin until permits are issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and a Record of Decision is received from the FHWA. The project must also be evaluated and scored based on its merits as required by law under House Bill 2. After the project is scored, the CTB will decide whether or not to advance it.

Of the alternatives considered, the Preferred Alternative would:

• Address roadway deficiencies;

• Improve safety by yielding lower crash rates;

• Improve emergency evacuation capacity in this portion of the study corridor;

• Enhance safety and mobility by separating local and regional traffic, which allows for improved access to community facilities while accommodating increasing truck traffic with a free-flow connection to Route 58

• Improve strategic military connectivity;

• Support local economic development;

• Address concerns related to flooding and projected sea-level rise issues by providing infrastructure that incorporates federal initiatives addressing climate change and coastal resiliency;

• Provide better travel time savings; and

• Appear to be the Least Environmentally Damaging Practical Alternative, as indicated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — an important consideration in advancing any improvement.

The study team continues to develop a more detailed understanding of the impacts of the proposed Preferred Alternative, as VDOT and our federal partners work to prepare a Final SEIS and permit application. Field work activities are currently underway and will likely continue through this summer. Moving forward, we anticipate submitting a permit application by the end of 2015 and obtaining a Record of Decision and environmental permit decisions by summer of 2016. Right of way acquisition and construction cannot begin before these federal approvals have been granted.

We will continue talking to citizens at two upcoming Route 460 public meetings: 5-7:30 p.m. on Monday, May 18, at King’s Fork High School, 351 King’s Fork Road, Suffolk; and 5-7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 28, at Windsor High School, 24 Church St., Windsor. The project team will display current project maps, share current and upcoming project work activities, and provide information about the timeline, environmental study and right of way.

Project updates are available by visiting the project website at http://www.route460project.org.

Again, we appreciate your patience and cooperation as we improve transportation facilities for the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

CHARLIE KILPATRICK is the VDOT Commissioner. Contact him at charlie.kilpatrick@vdot.virginia.gov.