U.S. 460 expansion project is likely dead. Here’s why.
The U.S. 460 expansion project from Suffolk to Zuni is dead.
The long-controversial plan, which was significantly pared down from prior plans, was too costly to score well in the new state transportation funding plan.
That means it likely will wither on the vine without state funding.
“As far as 460 is concerned, we will not be moving that project forward,” Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said Tuesday at the Commonwealth Transportation Board meeting.
The project scored so poorly – less than a point – in the new Smart Scale program, that it wasn’t even eligible for funding. They must score at least a point.
Projects are scored under six categories: safety, congestion reduction, accessibility, land use, economic development and environmental impact. Each score is added together (U.S. 460 received a 23.27 benefit score) and then that is divided by the cost of the project. Projects are ranked statewide by project cost/benefit ratios.
The $450 million price tag likely weighed down the expansion.
The goal of Smart Scale is to get the most benefit out of each transportation dollar.
“No one is saying the road doesn’t have benefits,” Layne said. “There’s just other greater needs in the commonwealth.”
The original project, a 55-mile toll road from Suffolk to Petersburg, was scrapped in 2014 after it was pushed through a contracting process without first getting an environmental permit from the Army Corps of Engineers. It hurt 500 acres of wetland and cost upwards of $1.4 billion.
The revised plan that expanded 16 miles of that road disturbed only 35 acres of wetlands and was able to get a Corps permit.
Virginia Department of Transportation officials said the project would improve safety, travel time, hurricane evacuation and freight movement.
Environmental advocates celebrated the death of the project Tuesday.
“The score confirms what we already know – this is not a priority project and there are better uses for the money,” said Trip Pollard with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We’ve argued for 15 years that VDOT should focus on the deficiencies of 460 like flooding and safety needs.
“We hope that happens and we can move ahead with planning those instead.”
The expansion lacked local support, too. Usually, localities submit projects to be scored for funding, but all the communities along the route declined to submit it.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board, the group responsible for the final allocation of dollars, had to submit it themselves.
“This score brings it to a conclusion,” Layne said.
Jordan Pascale, 757-446-2276, firstname.lastname@example.org Follow @jwpascale on Twitter.