Scaled-back plan for U.S. 460 less damaging to wetlands but big questions remain

Virginia's new plan for Route 460 makes better use of the existing road. There are still important unanswered questions. (© VA Dept. of Transportation)

Yesterday the Virginia Department of Transportation released its new plan for U.S. 460 in Virginia. The revised approach would include building a new four-lane divided highway from the U.S. 460/58 interchange in Suffolk to west of Windsor, at which point the improvements would shift to upgrading the existing U.S. 460 and building a new bridge over the Blackwater River until the work ends west of Zuni. The downsized approach is estimated to cost $375 million to $425 million.

Construction of the original proposal for a new 55-mile highway would have destroyed upwards of 600 acres of wetlands—more than any other project approved in Virginia since the Clean Water Act was adopted 40 years ago, compared to 52 acres of impacts expected from this scaled-down approach.

Excerpt from “VDOT, U.S. detail new plan for 460,” Richmond Times-Dispatch:

The new proposal “is vastly better than what was on the table before,” said Trip Pollard, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “But there are a lot of unanswered questions.”

The impacts of the foreshortened proposal on wetlands and other resources will require further scrutiny, he said, “as will the wisdom of spending up to $425 million of taxpayer funds on this when the latest study confirms that the existing Route 460 is not a heavily traveled highway.”

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