U.S. Route 460 Communications Committee
October 4 , 2001, Hampton Roads
A represenative of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce addressed the panel on behalf of the Route 460 Corridor Coalition, an organization formed to provide a voice for the business community along the corridor and to serve as a focus for consultations and discussions with elected officials. He urged that U.S. 460 be reconstructed as a limited access, divided highway of interstate highway quality, where traffic could safely maintain speeds of 55 to 65 miles per hour. Such a highway, he urged, is needed to improve safety, promote economic growth, and prevent strangulation of existing communities along the U.S. 460 corridor.
A differing view was presented by the president of the Surry County Chamber of Commerce. He, too, advocated construction of a multi-lane, divided, limited-access highway but urged that this facility be constructed to the east of the present U.S. 460 alignment, roughly from Prince George Court House via Lebanon Road, Savedge, Elberon, Berryman's Corner, Isle of Wight Court House, and Oakland to Taylorwood, connecting Interstate Route 295 near Petersburg with Interstate Route 664 west of Portsmouth. This alignment would, he suggested, relieve overcrowding of Route 10 and Route 460 and provide a safer and faster route for trucks and other heavy commercial vehicles. Building this route along the high ground between the James and Blackwater Rivers would cause minimal disturbance to the many wetlands in the U.S. 460 corridor and would not harm existing businesses.
Former Virginia Senator Wiley Mitchell also made brief remarks on behalf of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Senator Mitchell drew the members' attention to the desirability of making the highway improvements in the U.S. 460 corridor in such a way that the median could be used to provide a rail link between southside Hampton Roads and the proposed high-speed passenger rail corridor between Washington, D.C., and Charlotte, part of the larger Boston-to-Atlanta corridor.
A spokesman for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation pointed out that a Richmond-to-Hampton Roads rail corridor had already been designated by the federal Department of Transportation, but he was uncertain whether that designation was sufficiently broad to include a route along the U.S. 460 corridor. The chairman was requested to send a letter to Governor Gilmore urging him to write to the federal Department of Transportation to request designation of a rail corridor linking the greater Richmond area to southside Hampton Roads along the U.S. 460 corridor.
The meeting concluded with a series of four briefings by VDOT, responding to questions asked and information requested at the committee's first meeting: (i) transportation funding, (ii) transportation planning, (iii) an environmental overview, and (iv) the project development process. There was also a considerable discussion of the department's involvement in the preparation of the next federal highway program reauthorization legislation, scheduled to be enacted in 2003. In the course of preparation of this legislation, Virginia would place a high emphasis on maintaining the present level of "minimum guaranteed return" of federal funds to the Commonwealth.
For the commission's next meeting, Chairman McDonnell asked that the department provide a still more detailed best-case-scenario for the U.S. 460 project, complete with specific calendar dates for critical events. He asked, too, for additional explanation of the differences in federal financial commitment to Interstate System projects versus National Highway System projects.