PG BBQ, church spared by 460
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Jul 3, 2013, 17:17
PRINCE GEORGE — A proposal to alter the design of the new $1.4 billion Route 460 will preserve historic landmarks in the New Bohemia community including the Church of the Sacred Heart and the Prince George Family BBQ restaurant.
During a public meeting in Prince George last week, the Virginia Department of Transportation announced that the proposal would reroute the western termini further south to minimize the environmental impacts on the existing area.
Karen Meyers, with VDOT’s Hampton Roads Special Projects, emphasized that the environmental impacts being referred to are not just wetlands, but socio-economic factors as well.
The original design of the new Route 460, a 55-mile tolled highway linking Route 58 in Suffolk to Interstate 295 in Petersburg, would have constructed the western termini to cross directly over County Drive, and subsequently uprooted the natural habitat of existing businesses and locales which have a long history in the area.
The Sacred Heart, a Catholic church originally built in 1906 by Czech and Slovic families, has attracted a community that now includes more than 500 families, according to the church’s website.
In the proposed alternative, Route 460 will connect directly to I-295 in a less populated area further south including an overpass by Rives Road.
VDOT has labeled the new proposal as an “optimal solution.”
“The design is optimal because it appears to have the best characteristics of system to system connections, traffic operations and has a direct connection to I-295 unlike the previous design,” Meyers stated in an email.
While many Prince George residents are delighted about the proposed revisions to the highway, some of the public are worried about whether this will be the final revision or if the design will be changed again.
“Can we count on it as a community?” one person asked in reference to the concrete legitimacy of the new proposal at the public meeting.
A VDOT official at the meeting did not deny the possibility that the corridor could change again, but he said that there was a high percentage that this proposal goes into effect.
“We’re leaning pretty heavily toward this,” the VDOT official said. “It was always in the contract that we had to go through these steps to get the optimum solution. This isn’t something that we had just come up with.”
Some people were also concerned that the new route may create extra traffic around certain school areas.
Meyers reported that the new proposal is a “conceptual layout that will require further refinements including traffic analysis.”
There will be a Design Public Hearing sometime later this year or early 2014 during which the finished layout of the newly proposed road will be explicitly demonstrated to the public.
The new Route 460 will be built parallel to the existing Route 460 which will remain there after the new route is constructed. Construction is expected to be finished in 2017.