HJR 684: U.S. Route 460 Communications Committee

September 5, 2002
Hampton Roads

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 cuts—compared 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.

Members' Comments

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 construction.

In a series of questions and comments, Delegate Wardrup and Chairman McDonnell raised the question of how the CTB could reduce funding for projects—such as the U.S. 460 project—covered 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 F. McDonnell

For information, contact:

Alan B. Wambold
Division of Legislative Services


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