SJR 324: U.S. Route 460 Communications Committee

September 29, 2003

The committee heard briefings by two VDOT officials on the status of U.S. 460 Corridor Project studies and comments received through the public involvement process.

Proposed Schedule

Concerning the National Environmental Policy Act process, VDOT hopes to complete a draft Environmental Impact Statement by the autumn of 2004. VDOT will have to satisfy the federal government as to the U.S. 460 Project in three important areas: (i) the need for the project, (ii) the best location for the project (assuming a need can be demonstrated), and (iii) logical termini for the project (currently proposed to be U.S. Route 460’s intersection with U.S. Route 58 in the south and with northbound Interstate Route 295 in the north). The whole study process — particularly its “scoping” element — is and will continue to be “broad and dynamic,” based on purpose and need.

A general schedule of events (some already completed) for the project study:

  • Notice to proceed: Spring 2003
  • Scoping/Public Meetings: Summer 2003
  • Purpose and Need: Summer 2003
  • Development of Alternatives: Summer 2003 to Summer 2004
  • Citizen Information Meetings: Early 2004
  • Draft Environmental Impact Statement: Fall 2004
  • Public Hearings: Early 2005
  • Final Environmental Impact Statement: Early 2006
  • Record of Decision: Spring 2006

Most of the engineering tasks associated with this schedule will be carried out directly by VDOT personnel, while most of the environmental tasks will be carried out by consultants. The Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) would make a location decision for the project shortly following the submission of the draft Environmental Impact Statement, with public hearings held on this location decision thereafter.

Federal Highway Program

An advisor to the Governor for transportation reauthorization reported on the status of federal highway program reauthorization legislation (SAFETEA). The pending reauthorization legislation deals not only with federal highway construction funding, but with federal funding for transit, motor carrier and highway safety, surface transportation research, rail programs (including Amtrak), and aviation programs as well. To illustrate the serious impact this legislation (or lack of it) has on the Commonwealth, in fiscal year 2002, (i) apportionments to Virginia for transit and highway programs were over one billion dollars, (ii) the bulk of Virginia’s highway program funding came from federal sources, and (iii) 71 million federal dollars funded programs supporting Virginia’s airports.

In working with the Congress and other federal officials involved with the reauthorization legislation, Virginia is hoping to build on the successes of the most recent federal program (the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century — TEA21). Virginia is seeking (i) at least continuation (and possibly expansion) of “firewalls” and guarantees for both transit and highway programs; (ii) maintenance (and possibly enhancement) of funding flexibility to ensure the best and most multimodal structure possible; (iii) funding of programs to improve national security; (iv) imposition of no unfunded mandates; (v) expansion of the federal commitment to rail and public transit; (vi) adequate funding; and (vii) fairly distributed funding.

Priority projects for federal funding (not in any order of priority) would be (i) Dulles rail, (ii) Virginia Railway Express, (iii) high-speed passenger rail service, (iv) statewide transit capital assistance, (v) widening of Interstate Route 81, (vi) Coalfields Expressway, (vii) Route 29, (viii) Third Crossing of Hampton Roads, and (viii) Route 460 in Hampton Roads. Three different pieces of draft reauthorization legislation are presently under discussion in Congress, and the inadequacies of each have led to legislative stalemate. Several sources have suggested that it is highly unlikely that any reauthorization will be even seriously considered in Congress until about a year from now.

A motion by Senator Y. B. Miller that Chairman McDonnell send a letter to the Governor and the Congress, urging direct federal funding of the U.S. 460 Project as an “earmark” in the reauthorization legislation was unanimously agreed to.

High-Speed Rail

The status of high-speed passenger rail service between Richmond and Hampton Roads was discussed. One of the most important (and most controversial) issues is whether the service should be provided via the left bank of the James River (Richmond to Hampton or Newport News via Williamsburg) or the right bank of the James River (Richmond to Norfolk or Virginia Beach via Petersburg. A four-phase study and analysis project, begun in September of this year, should produce a recommendation on this question as part of a Tier I draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation expects to complete some time between May and September of next year. Questions and comments from the members left no doubt as to their preference for a “right bank solution” to this dilemma.

The Hon. Robert F. McDonnell

For information, contact:
Alan B. Wambold

Division of Legislative Services



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