New Data Show Greater Destruction of Wetlands and Higher Costs for Building New Route 460
Richmond, VA—The Southern Environmental Law Center released a statement today in response to the issuance by the Army Corps of Engineers and Federal Highway Administration of a Draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) on the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) proposed new Route 460 project between Suffolk and Petersburg.
Last fall, these federal agencies determined that VDOT needed to rethink the project and consider alternatives after new information revealed that VDOT’s preferred route would destroy 479 acres of wetlands—nearly four times the estimate in the original environmental impact statement, and more than any project approved in Virginia since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972.
The updated analysis released today indicates that the amount of wetlands that would be destroyed by building a new Route 460 has jumped even further. The new data show that VDOT’s proposed routes to the south and north of the existing Route 460 would damage 613 and 516 acres, respectively, compared to 91 acres that would be impacted by simply upgrading the existing Route 460.
“The Draft SEIS released today shows yet another major increase in the amount of wetlands that would have to be destroyed to build a new highway right next to one that already exists and carries relatively little traffic,” said Trip Pollard, SELC Senior Attorney and Director of the Land and Community Program. “Building a new 460 would damage more than six times as many wetlands as improving the existing highway, and this latest, jaw-dropping tally of 613 acres would far surpass any project in Virginia permitted since the Clean Water Act was adopted in 1972.”
In addition to updating information on the project’s environmental impacts, the SEIS updated cost projections, which range from $974 million for upgrading the existing Route 460, to over $1.8 billion for the route VDOT had previously been pursuing.
“The cost difference between building a new Route 460 and upgrading the existing roadway is striking,” noted Pollard. “According to this new analysis, the new routes to the south and north of existing Route 460 would cost taxpayers at least $1.8 billion—roughly double the cost of improving the existing highway and $400 million more than previously estimated.”
VDOT and the federal agencies will hold public hearings on the project and the new analysis later this fall, and the agencies will then decide which of the proposed alignments to move forward.
“The new analysis further validates the major concerns with the proposed new highway we have had all along, and the warnings the Corps has issued for years,” added Pollard. “The Commonwealth should not waste any more taxpayer funds on this destructive project, and should instead make needed improvements to the existing Route 460.”
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