VDOT severs ties with builders over new U.S. 460

Source: Jim Nolan and Michael Martz, Richmond Times-Dispatch, April 15, 2015

The Virginia Department of Transportation has severed ties with the construction consortium hired under the McDonnell administration to build a new, 55-mile U.S. 460 between Petersburg and Suffolk — the $300 million road boondoggle that never broke ground because of the lack of environmental permits. Administration officials said Wednesday that terminating the contract also could pave the way for legal action between the state and the consortium to recover the millions the state has paid out….It follows months of negotiations by the state to reach agreement with US 460 Mobility Partners on how much of the $252 million paid out by the state should be returned to Virginia’s coffers, following revelations that the contractor was being paid on a timetable although certain work could not proceed because the project had not obtained necessary environmental permits….

Virginia Investigates Controversial I-460 Toll Road Plan
Source: Jim Parsons, Engineering News Record, Vol. 272 no. 19, June 25, 2014
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A controversial plant to construct a tolled bypass to U.S. Route 460 in southeast Virginia could be in for hurdles as the state’s transportation agency and inspector general investigate potential procurement violations for the $1.4 billion project. At issue is whether a proposed 55-mile limited access toll highway between Suffolk and Petersburg was developed, contracted and invoiced in accordance with the Virginia Dept. of Transportation’s procurement rules, as well as those of the state’s Public-Private Transportation Act. … Investigators are also looking at payments to the project’s design-build contractor, 460 Mobility Partners, a consortium led by Madrid-based Ferrovial Agroman S.A., and American Infrastructure, Worcester, Pa. …

Critics: McDonnell pushed ahead on U.S. 460 project despite regulators’ concerns
Source: Laura Vozzella, Washington Post, March 31, 2014

An opponent of a controversial highway project in southeast Virginia said Monday that former governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) committed hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ and bond investors’ dollars even as federal regulators said the road faced serious environmental hurdles. Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s abrupt decision to put the expansion of U.S. 460 on hold in March has brought new scrutiny to a project that has cost Virginia $250 million without moving so much as a shovelful of dirt. … Now, critics say McDonnell and his administration appear to have misled bond investors about the project’s status to keep it alive. Project boosters dispute that assertion.

…The public-private partnership created to issue $243 million in bonds for the highway was required to acknowledge to investors that the project did not yet have the Corps of Engineers’ blessing, and materials presented to investors did disclose that the developer still lacked certain permits. But Trip Pollard, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the partnership soft-pedaled federal regulators’ concerns about the project to investors, who were counting on toll revenue from the new road to pay them back…. At the heart of Pollard’s accusation is the Virginia Department of Transportation’s two plans for U.S. 460. The first involved building an entirely new, tolled four-lane highway parallel to the existing corridor. The second, a fallback in case the state could not get permission for a new highway, was to add a fifth lane to the existing road….