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Posted at 12:30 PM ET, 07/26/2010

McDonnell's U.S. 460 dilemma: public money needed

By Peter Galuszka

You can slice it. You can dice it. But it all comes back to the same problem -- Virginia's dearth of public money for needed highways.

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell has been trying for years to push a replacement for U.S. 460 running roughly 55 miles from Suffolk to Prince George County east of Petersburg.

The reason is simple. Any Washingtonian who has tried to drive to Virginia Beach and the ocean shore on a summer weekend knows how jammed the bridge tunnels under Hampton Roads can be and what a parking lot Interstate 64 is from Newport News to Richmond.

Indications are that traffic will only get worse in southeastern Virginia. That has big implications not just for beachgoers but for trucking traffic to and from of the largest port complexes on the East Coast, the U.S. military and local residents attempting to flee for higher ground should a long-overdue killer hurricane brew up.

The solution? Build a limited access, multilane U.S. 460 replacement that would do much to ease traffic woes along the current U.S. 460 on the south side of the James River. The price tag is from $1.4 billion to $1.7 billion.

Like his Democratic predecessors, McDonnell has promoted public-private partnerships as a way, essentially, to get something for nothing. The state faces $20 billion in transportation needs it can't pay for. McDonnell thinks that if you turn roads over to private infrastructure firms, Virginia would get a toll road without the tax burden.

Well, maybe not. Apparently, in recent weeks, it has been clear after meetings with infrastructure firms and road builders that state and federal money will be needed for the project after all. Curiously, previous studies have stated that up to $1 billion in public money will be needed. Tolls could still run a whopping $13.20.

McDonnell must have known this since he's been on the case for a decade. So, where will he get the state money? That's going to require even more stunning smoke and mirrors than delaying the state pension fund payments that he used to create a (phantom) surplus in the upcoming budget.

When will they learn you can't get something for nothing?

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion. The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | July 26, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  D.C., HotTopic, Local blog network, Maryland, Va. Politics, Virginia, development, economy, energy, environment, military, real estate, recreation, taxes, traffic, transportation, weather  
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McDonnel, all hat no cattle, has no credibility on transportation matters in VA.

Posted by: Falmouth1 | July 27, 2010 5:08 AM | Report abuse

If you widen U.S. 460, it will get just as jammed as I-64. Once motorists find out that there's a new shiny highway, they will take more trips to Virginia Beach that they wouldn't have before. The extra car trips will fill up the road. Except Virginia will be stuck with construction bonds and maintence costs in perpetuity. It's called induced demand.

The right decision is being made for the wrong reasons. Virginia would be foolish to turn U.S. 460 into a limited access highway.

Posted by: Cavan9 | July 27, 2010 9:38 AM | Report abuse

i've sat in that traffic before an it surely is a deterrent from going back down there. Even the traffic on I-95 is enough to not want to drive through VA. it has to be one of the worst bottlenecks on the entire I-95 corridor.

Posted by: oknow1 | July 27, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

The best solution is to reduce the number of lanes on all roads to one. People need to stay home, not to drive. Driving rapes the planet. Do you support rape?

Posted by: jiji1 | July 27, 2010 4:28 PM | Report abuse

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