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Virginia looks to end contract to build new toll road that would parallel US 460

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NORFOLK, Virginia — After already spending more than $280 million on the project, the Virginia Department of Transportation gave notice Wednesday that it plans to terminate its contract to build a new toll road that would parallel the existing U.S. 460 from Suffolk to Petersburg.

Work on the road was halted by Gov. Terry McAuliffe's administration before construction ever started last spring because of concerns it wouldn't receive the necessary permits from the Army Corps of Engineers. The corps has said the 55-mile highway's construction would affect hundreds of acres of wetland.

The road was conceived by former Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration as a secondary hurricane evacuation route for Hampton Roads and as a way to alleviate congestion on Interstate 64 by providing truck drivers with an alternate route to and from the state's port terminals.

Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne told the Commonwealth Transportation Board that the contract's termination doesn't mean that there won't be a new U.S. 460, but the project would have to compete with other projects for funding again. In January, VDOT and the corps identified a preferred alternative route that upgrades much of the existing U.S. 460 that could make it through the permitting process.

VDOT plans to conduct public outreach efforts about that alternative, which would create a new four-lane divided highway from a new U.S. 460/58 interchange in Suffolk to west of Windsor. From west of Windsor to west of Zuni, the existing U.S. 460 would be upgraded to a four-lane divided highway and include a new bridge across the Blackwater River to eliminate flooding problems, according to VDOT.

Layne said issuing notice of the contract termination would begin a 60-day negotiation period with the contractor, US 460 Mobility Partners. He said the state would seek to recoup much of the money it has already spent.

"We are owed a great deal of money back. And we will do whatever steps are necessary to claw that money back," he said. "I don't know how much that would be. But we do believe that here was a payment schedule, not an earned revenue schedule."

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Brock Vergakis can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis

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