News | June 24, 2016

Agencies invite public input on destructive new Virginia highway

Today agencies released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the new Route 460 highway project in Tidewater Virginia for public comment.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) originally proposed to build 55 miles of new highway parallel to Route 460 from Petersburg to Suffolk, but this proposal was scrapped in early 2015 when it became clear the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would not permit the severe loss of wetlands its construction would have required.

The Final SEIS released today focuses its review on a new 16-mile proposal for the eastern part of the corridor.  While smaller in scale, this new proposal would still include building 12 miles of new highway bypasses through rural areas near Windsor, resulting in significant impacts on wetlands, forests, and farmland.

“We remain skeptical that building any new highway here is justified given the relatively modest transportation needs of this lightly-traveled corridor, as well as the substantial impacts it would have on the area’s communities and environment,” said Staff Attorney Travis Pietila.  “We continue to urge the Corps of Engineers to give serious consideration to less costly and less harmful alternatives focused on improving the existing highway in its ongoing review of whether it can issue a permit for the destruction of wetlands under the Clean Water Act.”

The Corps of Engineers’ review of a Clean Water Act permit for the project continues separately from the Final SEIS.  Earlier this year, SELC submitted comments on VDOT’s permit application for the new proposal, including a report proposing alternative improvements for the existing route.

Public comments on the Final SEIS will be accepted through July 24. The document as well as a link to submit comments may be found here.