HJR 684: U.S. Route 460 Communications
September 5, 2002
VDOT's Construction Plan
A Virginia Department of Transportation
(VDOT) representative told the committee that, within months of the adoption
of the VDOT's six-year construction plan by the Commonwealth Transportation
Board (CTB) in December of 2001, the plan had "collapsed." The
current plan provides for a 28 percent reduction$2.8 billion in
funding cutscompared to that of December 2001. These reductions,
he said, were necessitated when revenues failed to meet projections and
cost estimates for many projects turned out to be below actual costs.
In making the required reductions, first priority was given to ensuring
that adequate funds would be available to pay for projects already "in
the pipeline." Re-verification of project cost estimates led to the
elimination of 166 projects in order to be sure that funding of projects
already under way would not be put in jeopardy.
Many projects that had not progressed
beyond the development phase were simply shelved. In the case of the U.S.
460 project, $25 million included in the December 2001 plan for various
study activities was cut to $6 million. Since $8 million to $10 million
would be required to fund preparation of a full-scale environmental impact
statement for the project, the scope of studies will have to be cut back
to elements such as obtaining and analyzing traffic data (particularly
data on truck traffic volumes), economic development data, and accident
and safety-related data. In future years, additional studies could be
conducted as funding becomes available, so that, eventually, the several
studies could be "phased into" a full environmental impact statement.
Also, should the November referendum on increasing the sales tax in Hampton
Roads pass, some additional money would be available for the U.S. 460
project, but only for that portion between Bowers Hill and Zuni.
Delegate Joannou asked whether
the decline in revenues available for highway construction was attributable
to a drop-off in motor fuel tax collections, and the VDOT official responded
that most of the shortfall was attributable to loss of revenues derived
from sales taxes and from decreases in federal funding. Some additional
imbalances were attributable to cost over-runs on projects already under
In a series of questions and
comments, Delegate Wardrup and Chairman McDonnell raised the question
of how the CTB could reduce funding for projectssuch as the U.S.
460 projectcovered by the Virginia Transportation Act of 2000 (Chapters
1019 and 1044 of the Acts of Assembly of 2000). The members were assured
that the department's chief financial officer would respond in writing
on that issue by letter prior to the committee's next meeting. When
Delegate Cosgrove wondered whether it might be appropriate for the chairman
to ask for an opinion from the Attorney General in this matter, Chairman
McDonnell assured him that he might do so, depending upon the response
from the department.
No public hearings or informational
meetings will be held until after the November election. Legislation passed
by the 2002 General Assembly (HB 1006) would allow the Governor to waive
many state environmental and other regulations in connection with the
U.S. 460 project, but this legislation would not allow any waiver of federal
regulations. The department is presently compiling a list of which regulations
the Governor can waive, and the committee will be provided a copy of the
list when it is completed.
The committee will next meet
on October 29, 2002, at 10:00 a.m. in the VDOT Hampton Roads District
Office in Suffolk.
The Hon. Robert
Alan B. Wambold
Division of Legislative Services
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