Decision clears way for detailed planning, environmental studies, land acquisition
With the Federal Highway Administration’s conditional approval of proposed improvements to Interstate 64 in the Short Pump area, Henrico County will soon initiate the project’s detailed design phase, environmental review, land acquisition and funding plan.
At a news conference today, county officials thanked state and federal officials for their support and rapid approval of improvements aimed at easing traffic congestion and improving safety along the bustling corridor of western Henrico.
The improvements, which would include a new diamond-shaped I-64 interchange at North Gayton Road and modifications to the I-64 interchange at West Broad Street, will mean less time stuck in traffic and fewer crashes – “literally saving lives,” said Supervisor Tommy Branin, whose Three Chopt District includes Short Pump.
“It’s the fastest approval we’ve ever received from the FHWA,” he said. “It also is the largest transportation safety project this county has ever done in history.”
Officials cited seven traffic fatalities, 475 vehicle crashes with injuries and 1,324 crashes with property damage in the project area from January 2017 to September 2022.
“Yes, this will improve efficiency. It will improve congestion,” Assistant Chief of Police Michael Palkovics said, “but most importantly it’s going to improve safety for everybody.”
Based on preliminary designs, the improvements are estimated to cost $200 million to $300 million without adjustments for inflation. Officials note the cost also could change based on the project’s final design and funding schedule.
Officials expect to spend the next two to three years refining the plans, completing environmental studies, acquiring the additional land needed for construction and hosting meetings and other opportunities for public engagement and input. That phase will be funded with $5 million from the Central Virginia Transportation Authority.
If all goes well, construction could begin on the North Gayton interchange in about three years, followed by the modifications to the Broad Street interchange, said Terrell Hughes, director of the Department of Public Works. Officials expect the Broad Street interchange would remain open throughout construction.
Branin said the massive project is moving forward because it’s desperately needed, has strong community support and has received cooperation from officials at all levels of government. He thanked Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s administration as well as state and federal transportation officials, state Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, of the 12th District; U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, of the 1st Congressional District; and U.S. Rep. Abigail Spanberger, of the 7th Congressional District. Western Henrico was part of the 7th before moving to the 1st during the recent redistricting.
“This is actually how government is supposed to work,” Branin said. “It’s thanks to elected leaders – both Republicans and Democrats – working to solve issues and improve the community and quality of life. In this case, no one looked at R’s or D’s. Everyone, instead, behind their names had H’s and S’s – for ‘Henrico’ and ‘safety.’”
In a June 6 letter, FHWA Virginia Division Administrator Thomas L. Nelson Jr. gave the agency’s conditional approval to the project’s various phases:
- Constructing a new diverging diamond interchange on I-64 at North Gayton Road;
- Constructing a partial cloverleaf interchange that removes the on-ramp from U.S. 250 to westbound I-64. Constructing dual westbound right-turn lanes at the intersection with westbound I-64 ramps plus contraflow left-turn lanes;
- Constructing an auxiliary lane on southbound state Route 288 between U.S. 250 and Tuckahoe Creek Parkway;
- Constructing an auxiliary lane on northbound Route 288 between Tuckahoe Creek Parkway at U.S. 250. Signalizing and adding a second lane to serve the right-turn movement on the southbound Route 288 off-ramp to U.S. 250. Adding a second lane to serve the right-turn movement on the northbound Route 288 off-ramp to U.S. 250;
- Converting the westbound U.S. 250 right-turn lane at Tom Leonard Drive to a shared through/right lane and installing a thru-cut;
- Restricting vehicles on the westbound off-ramp from I-64 to eastbound U.S. 250 from turning left at Dominion Boulevard; and
- Converting the single-lane Interstate 295 on-ramp from westbound I-64 to two lanes. Constructing a continuous northbound auxiliary lane from I-64 to the Nuckols Road interchange.