Another P3 for Virginians, $7 a day in new taxes

Link to article here.

This project is a TOTAL fraud upon the public. The private corporation getting this golden goose isn't putting in ONE dime of its own money. It will be 100% paid for with public money, yet Virginians will be charged a DOUBLE TAX toll to use the lanes. Public private partnerships are a BIG RIP-OFF and corporate welfare for special interests with political connections. Look who's applauding the deal, certainly the average commuter...

U.S. 460 toll project to begin in 2014
Tolls would be $3.69 for cars and $11.72 for trucks for the 55-mile stretch between Petersburg and Suffolk.
By: PETER BACQUÉ | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Published: October 16, 2012

Nearly two decades in the making, construction should start on the $1.396 billion U.S. 460 project in 2014, with the road opening in 2018, according to the state's Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships.

Drivers will pay $3.69 for cars to use the 55-mile road between Petersburg and Suffolk and $11.72 for trucks.

The road-user fee is 6.7 cents a mile for cars and 21.3 cents a mile for trucks. The fee will be collected electronically — by E-ZPass — making charging a toll figured to the cent practical.

Toll rates will increase 3.5 percent per year, the office said. The existing U.S. 460 will remain a free alternative route without tolls.

The four-lane divided, limited-access highway with seven interchanges could reshape life in the largely rural, economically depressed region in Southside Virginia.

"This is a huge economic development opportunity for Southside and Hampton Roads," said Jeffrey C. Southard, executive vice president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance.

The toll road is aimed at helping freight traffic move swiftly and easily out of the state's Hampton Roads marine terminals, which are major economic engines for the commonwealth.

"The 460 project will provide a rapid and economical alternative for freight movement into and out of the Port of Virginia," state Transportation Secretary Sean T. Connaughton said.

"In addition to its transportation benefits," Connaughton said, "the project will open several mega-sites for manufacturing and distribution centers that will drive economic development and dramatically increase port activity."

Virginia will build the new U.S. 460 largely with public money. VDOT will commit $753 million to $930 million in public funding to the project, and the Virginia Port Authority will put up $202 million to $250 million.

Though the project is legally a public-private partnership, the private-sector contractor, US 460 Mobility Partners, will not contribute money directly to the project's cost but is responsible for arranging the financing.

At the same time, officials said, using public financing should reduce the project's cost as well as the length of time tolls will have to be charged to pay for it, from 99 years down to 40 years.

State Highway Commissioner Gregory Whirley selected the US 460 Mobility Partners consortium as the design-build contractor for the toll road.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board is scheduled to act on the U.S. 460 project today.

The interstate-class road will reduce Richmond-to-Norfolk travel in the south-of-the-James corridor by 20 minutes, to 1 hour and 45 minutes, the state said.

"It's a great investment in the future," Whirley said. "Particularly when the (enlarged) Panama Canal opens up, we want Virginia to be competitive" for the additional shipping business. "That's what's going to bring jobs to the commonwealth."

Others were not as enthusiastic about the highway.

"This project is an enormous waste of taxpayer dollars that will cause significant environmental damage," said Trip Pollard with the Southern Environmental Law Center. "It is a boondoggle that is nowhere near the most pressing transportation need for Virginia, or even Hampton Roads."

The project will cost the state "over a billion dollars in cash and allow tolls to be imposed for decades to support speculative development," he said. "We should improve the existing 460 rather than build an unneeded new 55-mile highway."

David Dickson with the Sierra Club's Virginia Chapter said, "We continue to oppose this environmentally destructive and unneeded project."

"The commonwealth's transportation dollars could be much better spent improving safety on the existing Route 460," Dickson said, "and providing for the real transportation needs of Hampton Roads, including moving forward with the Patriots Crossing (tunnel and bridge system between Interstate 564 in Norfolk and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel) and expanding high capacity transit."

Improving Interstate 64 and the Hampton Roads crossing would cost $9.6 billion to $10.7 billion, the state said.

According to the state, the new 460 project should create 4,000 construction jobs and 14,000 long-term jobs.

460 Mobility Partners consists of Cintra Infraestructuras S.A. and Ferrovial Agroman S.A., both of Madrid, Spain; American Infrastructure of Worchester, Pa.; Janssen & Spaans Engineering Inc. of Indianapolis; A. Morton Thomas and Associates Inc. of Rockville, Md.

Ferrovial Agroman and Cintra Infraestructuras are subsidiaries of Spain's Ferrovial S.A., a global transportation infrastructure developer.

"We will be hiring many, many Virginia companies," said a spokesman for 460 Mobility Partners. "The vast majority of this project will be constructed by Virginia contractors."

The amount of public money in the project will depend on whether the state receives approval from the Federal Highway Administration for $248 million to $341 million in federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act — TIFIA — loans for the project.

Richmond Times-Dispatch Copyright (c) 2012, World Media Enterprises Inc