New bills would grade, prioritize transportation projects to prevent waste of taxpayer dollars

Posted at 6:04 PM, Dec 09, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-10 06:16:25-05

Five billion in transportation money is up for grabs around Virginia and everybody wants a piece.

Isle of Wight leaders want to build the new Route 460 to Petersburg.

“460 is really the bread and butter of what we are trying to base our economic development on,” said DeeDee Darden, a member of the IOW Board of Supervisors.

Portsmouth leaders want the money to lower $1.84 tolls at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.

“There are ways we can transfer money over to bring down cost of those tolls,” said Mayor Kenny Wright.

So how will the state pick and choose what to fund?

“These are accountability pieces, they are incredibly important. Taxpayers have given us this money for transportation, and they want to make sure it’s spent best way it can,” said Speaker of the House of Delegates William J. Howell.

Speaker Howell says he will be introducing a bill next year that will require every future transportation project to meet three criteria--ease congestion, increase safety, and spur economic development.

“When we talk about safety, congestion, economic development, these three issues is why 460 should be at the forefront,” said Darden, who made the case to Speaker Howell for Rt. 460 to continue to be a funded project.

“Maybe you show 460 does do more for congestion. It certainly does to a lot when you’re talking about safety and people getting out for emergencies,” said Speaker Howell, who also acknowledged problems with environmental permits from the federal government that have put the project in jeopardy.

The governor-elect already said he is taking a second look at 460.

Leaders like Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright are hoping to capitalize and bring that money to the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.

“No, I don’t want to kill 460, but if 460 is not going to happen, there is enough money in there to buy down this project tremendously,” said Wright.