The McDonnell administration has closed on a deal to finance, design and build a new U.S. 460 between Suffolk and Petersburg, providing the Hampton Roads region an interstate-quality alternative to Interstate 64 to connect with the interstate highway system.
The $1.4 billion project has been justified as a cost-effective way to promote the competitiveness of the Virginia ports, attract major industrial investment, enhance the connectivity between military installations, create an additional hurricane evacuation route and allow visitors a more predictable route for reaching tourist destinations.
“There is a clear and critical need for the new U.S. 460,” said Governor Bob McDonnell in a press release announcing the close. “Today, the Commonwealth is finally delivering on that need and building a project that will not only make transportation better for the southeastern region and the state, it will also generate jobs and economic development opportunities, bringing extensive long-term benefits in so many ways.”
US 460 Mobility Partners, a for-profit partnership of Ferrovial Agroman, S.A. and American Infrastructure, will design and build the project. The non-profit Route 460 Funding Corporation of Virginia will issue bonds, set toll rates, collect tolls and operate the highway.
The Virginia Department of Transportation will contribute $903 million to the project, while the Virginia Port Authority will kick in another $250 million. Toll-backed bonds will account for only $243 million — or roughly one-sixth of the total cost.
The project never generated much outright opposition, although some Hampton Roads planners and business interests said the highway was a lower priority than other projects that would have relieved traffic congestion in the region’s urban core. Smart Growth groups faulted the Public Private Partnership Act process for giving the public insufficient time to review and respond to the final deal terms. Also, they say, the McDonnell administration never gave serious consideration to less expensive alternatives, nor did the Commonwealth Transportation Board ever weigh the state’s $900 million investment against competing rail, transit or local road projects.
The U.S. 460 toll road is scheduled to open in 2018.