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Congressional reps. speak out against Route 460 in Va.

Wednesday - 12/26/2012, 2:27pm  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - U.S. congressional representatives from Virginia are speaking out against Route 460, the new road approved by the state.

The Panama Canal is being expanded to handle more and bigger ships by 2015, prompting Virginia to approve the road.

Route 460 is a $1.4 billion, 55-mile highway between Petersburg and Suffolk. Its purpose is to help vehicular traffic in and out of the Port of Virginia, which is also being expanded to handle the new ships.

Democratic Virginia Reps. Bobby Scott, Jim Moran and Gerry Connolly say the money would be better spent on fixing and expanding the overcrowded roads in northern Virginia.

"They can manage to find $1.4 billion for a road almost no one is going to use, for a road that they put out to bid not once, but twice, and no private sector bidders thought it was viable," says Connolly.

The toll road, once complete, is estimated to handle about 8,600 cars a day. Connolly says that number should be compared to the 100,000 cars per day on the Dulles Toll Road.

Virginia has been struggling to find money for roads and transit. The state is estimated to need $500 million a year over the next five years to maintain its current roads.

But Sean Connaughton, Virginia's transportation secretary, says the new route is also badly needed for hurricane evacuation and as an alternative to I-64.

"This road will enable us to get people into and out of the Hampton Roads area in any sort of emergency without having to cross a major body of water," says Connaughton.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has been pushing for the new route since he was a state delegate representing the 84th District in Virginia Beach.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)