Almost two years after first breaking ground on the Interstate 64 widening project, officials returned to Newport News on Friday morning to cut the ribbon on Segment I, marking the completion of the $122 million project.
The 5.6-mile stretch has a new 12-foot-wide travel lane and shoulder in both directions. The stretch, which spans just west of Jefferson Avenue to east of Yorktown Road, also has six repaired bridges and two culverts.
About 100,000 cars move through the 5-mile stretch daily, according to state Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne.
Friday morning, state and local officials, including Newport News Mayor McKinley Price and Portsmouth Mayor John Rowe, gathered behind a big red ribbon under the Industrial Park Drive overpass, as traffic went by on I-64.
“On budget and on time — those are my four favorite words as a governor,” McAuliffe said Friday.
The project was built by Shirley Contracting, to which the Virginia Department of Transportation awarded an $84.8 million contract. The Lorton-based contractor boasted a design-build model and was given a notice of intent to award a contract for Segment III on Nov. 3. A request to approve the award will be presented at the Commonwealth Transportation Board’s meeting next week.
The project’s budget was $144 million — $100 million from federal and state funds, and $44 million from the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund, which is overseen by the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission and gets its money from sales and fuel tax. The project ultimately cost $122 million, putting $22 million back into HRTAC’s pocket.
“I think this is the metronome. The pace has now been set for this region. … To me, what this is is the first of a series of many improvements to come for this region that shows we can deliver projects both with the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission and VDOT working together,” said Kevin Page, executive director of HRTAC.
HRTAC also is helping to fund Segment II and III of the I-64 widening project, which are contracted separately and expected to cost about $213 million and $311 million, respectively.
“We know we’re going to have four or five more (projects),” said Sen. Frank Wagner, former vice chairman of HRTAC. “I’m concerned about what happens. We have a 10-year block without anything. This is wonderful, what are you going to do for me next? I’m in the business of what are you going to do for us next.”
The project’s completion was a measure of success for McAuliffe, who campaigned on the promise of improving transportation in the commonwealth.
“We inherited the Midtown Tunnel, one of the worst deals I’ve ever seen; the 460 deal was a rip-off of the taxpayers, those days are over,” McAuliffe said.
But, he said, it’s not time to go yet.
“Let’s get a couple more deals before I leave office,” he told a crowd of officials. Governor-elect Ralph Northam will be sworn in Jan. 13.
Layne, who has been tapped by Northam to serve as secretary of finance, promised the reforms McAuliffe has put in place would not change in the new administration. A secretary of transportation in Northam’s administration hasn’t yet been announced.
“As Governor McAuliffe has said, I don’t think anyone in the commonwealth wants to go back to what was going on. There’s a lot of good things going and it’s just a matter of us continuing down that path,” Layne said.
Plus, McAuliffe said, “It shouldn’t go without being said that the governor-elect is from Norfolk.”