U.S. 460 Upgrade a Done Deal

The McDonnell administration touts U.S. 460 as an economic development project, not a congestion-relief project.

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.

— JAB

2 Responses to U.S. 460 Upgrade a Done Deal

  1. If you build it, will they come? Right now the traffic on 460 hardly justifies this. Congested is not a word that applies. Bucolic is a word that applies, except on beach traffic weekends. (Will there be a dedicated exit ramp for the Virginia Diner?) But clearly the port believes that more and more container traffic will use this route to I-85 and I-95 over time, avoiding congested I-64 and the tunnels and perhaps enjoying 70 mph plus speeds. And it may be something that was pushed (or even promised) to Rolls Royce, which is just beginning to build out the massive potential of its Prince George operation. There is no question it will be extremely handy as a hurricane evacuation route (to all those hotels in Petersburg??)

    Certainly there was never going to be an interstate with the attending federal match dollars on this route. It just proves the statement that was made way back when VA 288 was opened in Chesterfield County — that would be (and has been) the last stretch of freeway built in VA.

  2. I tend to agree with Breckinridge’s sentiments. If someone had looked at the beltways back in the 1950’s few would have envisioned what ultimately came to be.

    The only wild card is the toll which proved to be decisive on the 288 project.

    I’m starting to believe that projects that are tolled don’t induce traffic (and growth) the same way that non-tolled roads do

    is that a bad thing or a good thing?

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