Having struggled long enough to salvage any benefit from a McDonnell-era deal that was still harming taxpayers and stifling sensible transportation planning, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe’s administration announced yesterday that they terminated a $300-million contract to build a new Route 460 in Southeastern Virginia and would seek to recover those funds.
SELC has opposed the wasteful proposal since the $1.8-billion, 55-mile project was first announced, as its price tag and its environmental impacts—it would have destroyed over 600 acres of wetlands—far exceeded any purported transportation benefit.
Despite consistent warnings that the project was unlikely to receive necessary environmental permits, the McDonnell administration pushed forward and awarded the contract to builders in 2012. $252 million in state funds was handed over, despite the project never breaking ground. The state’s move yesterday to terminate the contract allows the state to recover some of those funds.
In the meantime, the Virginia Department of Transportation is pursuing a scaled-back version of the project. Although it would impact far fewer wetlands and cost less than the original proposal, there are still questions about how best to improve this lightly-traveled road between Suffolk and Petersburg. As a result of the decision to cancel the contract, a thorough review of the alternative proposal must take place before additional funds are committed, and the McAuliffe administration should re-examine other options to improve the existing highway.
As Trip Pollard, leader of SELC’s Land and Community Program, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch yesterday: “We hope state officials can recover taxpayers’ money that was given to the contractor but not earned. And today’s announcements should help ensure a thorough review of the substitute 17-mile proposal VDOT put forth in January so we don’t throw good money after bad.”