Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2004 

HJR 185: U.S. Route 460 Communications Committee

August 2, 2004

Chairman McDonnell began the meeting by observing that, in his opinion, “It all comes down to regulations and money.” Since finding an appropriate and adequate source of funding for the project was likely to prove difficult, it would be essential that, as contemplated in § 33.1-223.2:5 (see House Bill No. 1006 of 2002), any state regulations that might increase costs or occasion delays be waived by the Governor whenever possible.

VDOT Report

A VDOT representative stressed to the members that, so far, the U.S. 460 project continues to be on schedule and on budget. He reminded the committee of the progress made to date in the location study process, including assessment of purpose and need, development of alternatives, and technical studies of possible alternatives. If the project remains on schedule, a final draft environmental impact statement (EIS) can be expected by the fall of 2004, with a final EIS some time in 2005 and a federal record of decision in early 2006. Following a record of decision, work can begin on design and right-of-way acquisition. In the course of work to date, the five conceptual alternatives first identified by consultants have been reduced to three “candidate build alternatives” (see map).

Source: Virginia Department of Transportation

In the general discussion that followed, Del. Councill suggested that improvements to the present alignment of the highway, possibly including bypasses of the larger towns, was likely to be the only realistically affordable of the several “build alternatives.” Very preliminary construction cost estimates for all three, it was pointed out, range from $700 million to more than $1 billion. VDOT spokesmen were quick to point out that transportation systems management (TSM) solutions and a “no-build” alternative were still active considerations.

Traffic Study

The next general topic was the traffic study carried out by VDOT’s consultants. It was reported that this study shows that only a small percentage of traffic in the Interstate Route 64 (I-64) corridor is “through” traffic and that a very low percentage of I-64 traffic would be diverted to a new U.S. 460. Alternatives 1 and 3 would divert between 25,000 and 40,000 vehicles per day (vpd), alternative 2 would divert between 29,000 and 48,000 vpd, and a “no-build” alternative would divert 13,000 to 24,000 vpd. In discussions it was pointed out that while these vehicle numbers seem high, as a percentage of the total volume of traffic in the I-64 corridor they are not.

Draft EIS

In a briefing on the status of the draft EIS, it was reported that three chapters (including engineering and right-of-way) had been completed and that work is continuing on assessment of resource impacts, benefit cost analysis, and toll feasibility and travel demand studies. Upcoming “milestones” will include local access concurrence, inter-agency meetings to review impacts, sign-off by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), public hearings, a decision by the Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB), consideration of possible wetland mitigations, and production of a final EIS, all culminating in a record of decision by FHWA.


Attention next turned to consideration of the role that the Public-Private Transportation Act of 1995 (PPTA) could play in any improvements along the U.S. Route 460 corridor. The committee was reminded that legislation passed by the 2003 Session of the General Assembly (HB 2543, Chapter 953, Acts of Assembly of 2003) requires that VDOT, within 90 days of the receipt of federal approval of the relevant draft EIS, solicit proposals for improvements to U.S. Route 460 between Hampton Roads and the Richmond-Petersburg metropolitan area (and related projects) under the PPTA.

The department would solicit such proposals once the CTB has made a decision and a single route is chosen. Efforts to find and supply adequate funding for whatever sort of project emerges from the process of study and decision-making at the state and federal levels is complicated by (i) reduction or elimination of some activities—particularly studies—at VDOT in an effort to maintain a state highway maintenance and construction program in a context of relatively stagnant revenues and rising costs and (ii) financial uncertainties arising from the failure of Congress to pass reauthorization legislation for a federal highway program that expired in the fall of 2003. House and Senate versions of the reauthorization legislation are sometimes markedly divergent, and there have been occasional threats of a Presidential veto. However, more than $6 million has been included in the state six-year transportation improvement program for activities associated with U.S. Route 460.

The news was no better from the perspective of financing the project with tolls. Data from regional toll studies are being used to focus on the U.S. Route 460 corridor for purposes associated with the National Environmental Policy Act. Nothing that has been developed thus far gives any indication that any toll scheme will generate enough revenue to fund a $1 billion project. It appears that at least a substantial portion of project costs are going to have to be borne by VDOT. The members were cautioned that any proposed toll scheme would require approval from FHWA.

Regulatory Waivers

The last subject of discussion was the possibility of waivers of state laws in connection with the project, as suggested by the chairman in his opening remarks. It appeared that waiver of state environmental regulations would probably be of little use, since requirements of NEPA and the NEPA process cannot be waived at the state level. Candidates for regulatory waiver fall into two broad categories: environmental regulations and procurement, and, in many areas, the project is beyond the stage where waivers might be beneficial. As to other candidates for waivers, the project will need to proceed further before additional waivable regulations can be identified and considered.

Public Hearings

Before the committee adjourned, the chairman announced his intention of holding public hearings at two places along the U.S. Route 460 corridor in coordination with a public information session for committee members prior to the public hearings. Members were encouraged to “weigh-in” on behalf of their constituents.

The Hon. Robert F. McDonnell

For information, contact:
Alan B. Wambold
Division of Legislative Services


Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2004 


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