Additional I-64 widening on the Peninsula gets green light

The Virginia Gazette

Planned traffic relief along the Interstate 64 corridor on the Peninsula appears to be in the fast lane.

Members of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC) voted unanimously Thursday to a funding agreement to complete segment two of the I-64 widening project.

Pending approval from the Commonwealth Transportation Board at its December meeting, the selected contractor could break ground on the long-anticipated widening project by late 2016, said Jim Utterback, Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) Hampton Roads district administrator.

Transportation officials hope to have the segment open to traffic by July 2019.

Plans call for 7.1-mile network of east and westbound lanes to be widened from four to six lanes starting at the Humelsine/Marquis Center parkways exit near Williamsburg, and ending at the Yorktown Road exit in Newport News near Lee Hall.

The project also calls for lengthening ramps along the segment's four interchanges, and repairing and widening nine bridges and six major culverts that fall within the project's scope.

In all, the second segment widening is estimated to cost $214 million, all of which will be funded by the Hampton Roads Transportation Fund, which is administered by the accountability commission to address road congestion.

"There's existing concrete, and the condition of that is such that we will replace that existing concrete when we add the additional lane," Utterback said. "So we'll actually rebuild the existing lanes."

The HRTAC agreement comes after state transportation board officials entered into an agreement with Lorton-based Shirley Contracting Co. in February to widen a nearly 2-mile stretch of I-64 from four to six lanes from the Jefferson Avenue exit in Newport News to Yorktown Road.

The total budget for that segment is about $144 million, once rights-of-way acquisition, contingency funding and oversight are factored in. About $100 million of that will come from the state, and $44 million from local regional transportation funds.

Bank and director

Meanwhile, nearly $269 million in gas and sales tax funds that make up the Hampton Roads Transpiration Fund could be deposited into Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T as early as Friday, said committee member and republican Virginia Beach State Sen. Frank Wagner.

Committee members backed a plan to make BB&T and First Union banks its financial institutions of choice. The decision comes after months of delays pending an attorney general opinion on how to proceed if an accountability committee member happens to be directly affiliated with a company or bank doing business with HRTAC.

"All money that comes from the state is deposited into BB&T," Wagner explained. "BB&T only puts money into the First Union account based on our directions. Outgoing checks are all sent out of First Union."

The committee could also have a new executive director running day-to-day operations at HRTAC by July, according to a top transportation official.

Grindly Johnson, deputy secretary of transportation, told members that the search committee could begin its first round of interviews for a new executive director by May, with follow-up interviews and candidate negotiations by June.

"The schedule could change," Johnson informed committee members. "But if all goes to plan we could have a new executive director begin around July 15 or July 30."

Johnson said the new director's salary could range between $170,000 and $235,000 a year — money that is currently part of the group's nearly $1.1 million proposed fiscal year 2016 administrative budget.

A public hearing on the proposed HRTAC administrative budget is set from 4:30 to 7 p.m. May 20 at the Regional Board Room at 723 Woodlake Drive in Chesapeake.

O'Neal can be reached by phone at 757-247-4744.

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