HJR 684: U.S. Route 460 Communications Committee

November 15, 2002
Hampton Roads

Project Status

Following opening remarks by the chairman, two Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) representatives provided a general update of the U.S. 460 project. Whereas it had originally been conceived as a single large project, recent significant cut-backs in the six-year plan and have led to a "de-bundling" of the one project into a collection of smaller projects. This change of perspective, plus a decision to carry out a larger share of pre-construction location and environmental impact studies (EIS) "in house," will permit the department to move ahead with the project—at least in the location and EIS phases. In these phases, the department and its consultants will be looking at (i) enhancements and up-grades to existing U.S. Route 460 (to enhance safety and reduce congestion), (ii) the possibility of constructing a new facility along a new route, and (iii) improvements to rail facilities along the U.S. 460 corridor.

VDOT's new "divide and conquer" strategy will include a "scoping report" that will (i) identify existing congestion and safety deficiencies in the U.S. 460 corridor and (ii) study locations for a new corridor between Petersburg and Suffolk. This latter study will most likely require preparation of a full-scale Environmental Impact Statement for consideration by the federal government.

Construction of a new facility would aid development of the ports of Hampton Roads, improve the flow of truck traffic (particularly to and from the ports), reduce congestion, and possibly provide a realistic alternative to Interstate Route 64 between the Richmond Metropolitan Area and Hampton Roads. By the first of the year, negotiations with Parsons Brinkerhoff (consultants to VDOT) will probably have reached a stage that will enable the consultants to post an "intent to proceed." If things keep to schedule, this would make it possible to complete a final EIS by January of 2006, with a final record of decision by the federal government by the end of that year.

One of the first stages in preparation of an EIS is scoping, which involves "resource agencies" (such as the Army Corps of Engineers and various environmental organizations) and can involve participation by the general public. If it does, the public meetings could also be used as opportunities to provide information on the U.S. 460 project to the public. Meetings of this sort will probably be held on three consecutive evenings in three locations along the U.S. Route 460 corridor in March of 2003.

High-Speed Rail

The Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is moving forward with studies comparing the relative advantages and disadvantages of connecting the Richmond Metropolitan Area with Hampton Roads via the left or the right bank of the James River, based on passenger and rail demand modeling. Staff was instructed to prepare for the chairman's signature a letter to DRPT, VDOT, and other entities concerned with these rail issues to convey the committee's opinion that high-speed passenger rail service to Hampton Roads is essential and that the committee would oppose providing such service south from Richmond into North Carolina if service to Hampton Roads was not provided as well.


A far-ranging general discussion of cut-backs in the Commonwealth's highway construction program disclosed that the current six-year construction plan has no funding for any construction along U.S. Route 460. Another general discussion ensued, including the possibility of undertaking the U.S. Route 460 project under the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995 (PPTA) or as a "demonstration project" under the federal highway program scheduled for reauthorization in the fall of 2003.

Next Meeting

Chairman McDonnell announced his intention to call the next meeting of the committee in March of 2003, following the scheduled public information meetings. At that time, the committee will continue its discussion of possibly undertaking the U.S. Route 460 project under PPTA or as a federal demonstration project. To assists these discussions, the executive director of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission will prepare estimates of the toll required to finance construction of the U.S. Route 460 project, and committee staff will research possibilities for waiving various federal regulations that might impinge upon the project and the financial mechanism used to finance (and the policy arguments employed to justify) expansion of U.S. Route 460 during World War Two. Staff was also instructed to invite members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board from Hampton Roads to attend the Committee's March 2003 meeting.


The Hon. Robert F. McDonnell

For information, contact:

Alan B. Wambold
Division of Legislative Services


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