Billions of dollars approved for Virginia road projects

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Virginia's unofficial color may soon be orange. That's because you'll be seeing it on the roadways almost everywhere you drive. After years of budget cuts and delays, Virginia just got the green light for more than 900 road projects.

If there's one thing you can count on, it's construction. Happening now, a new bridge in the West End, for example. A wider turnpike on the Southside. Or a smoother interstate through downtown. But if you think that's a lot, on Wednesday, Virginia's Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton told the Commonwealth Transportation Board, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Virginia just approved another $3 billion in borrowed money for road construction.

Reta Busher is VDOT's chief of planning and programming.

"It's a tremendous infusion of resources that we haven't had since the downtown of the economy in 2008," Busher said.

The plan now, is to spend a total of $10.6 billion on local roads and major highways almost everywhere in Virginia. Locally, that includes a new bridge on Mechanicsville Turnpike, and widening a segment of Interstate 64 near Short Pump.

"This was a wonderful funding package that is moving hundreds of projects forward," Busher said.

Projects like these don't get wrapped up very quickly. VDOT expects to be spending the money over the next three years, but many of the projects aren't expected to be completed until the year 2017.

In April, the Gov. Bob McDonnell acknowledged there might be some short-term pain for drivers.

"I've kidded some of my friends that they won't be complaining about congestion anymore, but they might be complaining about construction because they're gonna see a lot more of that," McDonnell said at the time.

But with construction bids coming in low, and interest rates down, state leaders are banking on today's struggling economy, to pave the way for a better one...even if it's nearly a decade, down the road.

The plans also call for relieving congestion in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, and while the vast majority of the money is going into roadwork, some of the dollars will also be spent on rail and public transportation projects.

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