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Planning for U.S. Route 460 resumes

Jordan Crawford | 8/11/2014, 1:07 p.m.
The U.S. 460 Corridor Improvements Project which cost about $300 million without any guarantee of completion is back on the ...

With new planning now underway, the U.S. 460 Corridor Improvements Project which cost about $300 million without any guarantee of completion is back on the docket for public meetings.

About 70 people attended a town hall session Monday at Sussex Central High School in Sussex, VA to get a status report on the U.S. 460 Corridor Improvements Project and air their frustrations with it.

C.W. Griffin, a former mayor of Wakefield, one of several small towns along the existing U.S. 460, said he supports the project but is tired of the ambiguity it has caused for property owners and others who have lived for years in the potential path of a new road.

“Get us the accurate information and stop playing games with local people,” he said.

The comment drew applause from the crowd. Some in the audience disputed the need for a new highway in the 55-mile corridor between Suffolk and Petersburg.

The state, under former Gov. Bob McDonnell, struck a $1.4 billion deal in 2012 to build a tolled road south of U.S. 460, running roughly parallel to it. Gov. Terry McAuliffe halted work on the contract this year when it became clear the environmental damage would keep the highway from getting the permit it needed from the Army Corps of Engineers.

As much as $174 million in public money and $122 million in bond proceeds from investors has been spent on the project, and construction hasn’t begun. Much of that went to the state’s private design-build partner under the terms of their contract before McAuliffe issued the stop-work order.

VDOT and federal regulators are now studying other options, including a route to the north of the existing U.S. 460 and alternatives that would simply improve the old road or add bypasses around the towns in its path.

The state highway department has four more public information sessions scheduled through the end of July. The agency plans to hold formal hearings in October, when people can comment on the results of the research being done now.

Officials hope to know which course they will pursue by the end of this year, said Philip Rinehart, the project manager for VDOT.

VDOT Project Manager, Philip Rinehart said officials plan to have everything ironed out, knowing which course they will take, by the end of this year.