VA authority green-lights $410M High Rise Bridge addition
- Virginia's Commonwealth Transportation Board on Tuesday awarded the contract for a $410 million addition to the I-64 High Rise Bridge, the largest design-build contract in Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) history, according to an agency press release.
- Granite/Parsons/Corman, Joint Venture of Tarrytown, NY, won the contract, which also covers the widening of I-64 from four to six lanes, according to WAVY News, and the addition of one High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lane in each direction. The existing High Line Bridge will remain operational during construction. When complete, the new span, which will be built right next to the existing one, will accommodate three lanes of I-64 East traffic.
- The project is part of a statewide effort to relieve congestion on its highways and bridges. It is being funded by the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission and Virginia's SMART SCALE program, which scores, ranks and prioritizes transportation projects according to which will provide the best return on investment for state taxpayers.
After authorizing the SMART SCALE program, Virginia officials said the new scoring scheme would weigh such factors as safety, congestion, accessibility, economic development, environmental quality and land use in determining which projects should move forward. It was also an effort to increase transparency and accountability for taxpayers so they could see the process behind the financing of such large infrastructure initiatives. The VDOT said among all the elements that go into calculating the potential of each project, safety-related issues carried the most weight.
The state of Maryland also has a scoring process, but only after a considerable amount of pushback from Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan. In April 2016, Hogan vetoed a bill that required state-funded projects to be scored and ranked by nine benchmarks before they could be approved and funded. Hogan and his administration maintained the measure was meant to "chip away" at executive authority, but proponents of the new bill said it would provide, as in Virginia, more transparency into how projects were chosen.
Democrats, who had anticipated Hogan's veto, fast-tracked the vote so it could reach Hogan and then come back to them in time for an override. The Maryland Senate ended up overriding the governor's veto by a vote of 29-17.
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