State reverses earlier stance and offers cash incentives on U.S. 460

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Print this page By Paula C. Squires

Private investors have until early September to submit new bids to build a U.S. 460 toll road from Petersburg to Suffolk. This time around the state says it would be willing to put up some cash and other incentives.

In a webinar earlier this week, Virginia Department of Transportation Commissioner Greg Whirley and other transportation leaders told about 50 participants that the state would be willing to assume some financial risk, although no dollar amount or range was given from the cash-strapped department.

“It’s all based on what the private investors propose, and they were given instructions to be creative and to minimize the public investment,” said VDOT spokesman Jeffrey Caldwell. 

An original proposal for solicitation for the 460 project did not include a public subsidy. That procurement process, begun in 2006, drew three bids. Last May, Whirley terminated the process because of a change in market conditions. VDOT then issued a new solicitation for bids that sought private partners with innovative financing ideas to move the project forward.  This week’s meeting was held to inform interested parties on an addendum to the new solicitation, which includes enhancements designed to make the project more attractive to the private sector.

Tax breaks, permit waivers, higher speed limits and truck restrictions were included in the addendum, although some of these options would require General Assembly approval. 

The road’s builder also could consider developing transportation-related businesses along the limited access, four-lane, divided highway.

Getting the multi-billion project off the ground — VDOT has estimated design/build costs at $1.5 to $2 billion — is a top priority for Gov. Bob McDonnell. The toll road is key, say planners, in terms of easing traffic and freight congestion along Interstate 64 in Hampton Roads as well as providing an additional evacuation route in the case of a hurricane. 

The state hopes to have a comprehensive design/build agreement in place by October, said Caldwell.  Once a private partner is selected, construction could take as long as four years. Caldwell couldn’t speculate on how much tolls would cost. “It will be based on the money brought in by the private sector. “


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