Since the late 1980s, Chesterfield’s countywide thoroughfare plan has included a dotted line that represents a future extension of Powhite Parkway southwest from its current terminus near Route 288 all the way to Hull Street Road.
Now county leaders are taking the first tangible step in advancing the project, which is needed to address growth in the western Route 360 corridor and accommodate development of the Upper Magnolia Green site, from idea to reality.
Chesterfield’s proposed fiscal year 2024 budget includes $153.9 million for construction of Phase I of the Powhite Extension. The 2.25-mile project will widen the last existing section of Powhite Parkway from two to four lanes, extend it from Little Tomahawk Creek to Woolridge Road, create an interchange at Charter Colony Parkway and construct overpasses on Brandermill and Watermill parkways.
Pending approval by the Board of Supervisors next Wednesday, that funding will be pooled with $16.1 million already appropriated to provide a total of $170 million for Phase I.
Brent Epps, director of the Chesterfield Department of Transportation (CDOT), acknowledged the significance of the county’s initial investment in an infrastructure improvement that comes with an estimated $700 million price tag.
“We’ve always talked about the Powhite Extension being such a large-ticket item that it would take a true partnership between us, the state and the federal government – and maybe even some private partners – to get the entirety of it built,” he said. “Momentum is a good thing. We certainly need it and the only way we’re going to create it is by dedicating local funds to the project.”
With many other transportation needs in a large, growing county, it previously wasn’t feasible for Chesterfield to allocate enough local tax dollars to the Powhite Extension to generate such critical mass.
That changed in 2020 when the General Assembly passed legislation creating the Central Virginia Transportation Authority (CVTA). The regional body administers revenue generated from two taxes – an additional 0.7% sales and use tax, and wholesale gas taxes of 7.6 cents per gallon of gasoline and 7.7 cents per gallon of diesel fuel – levied in the counties of Chesterfield, Henrico, Hanover, Goochland, New Kent, Powhatan and Charles City; the city of Richmond; and the town of Ashland.
All revenue collected by CVTA must be dedicated to transportation projects, with 50% returned to member localities, 35% allocated to regional priorities and the remaining 15% provided to GRTC.
Nearly half of the funding for Phase I of the Powhite Extension, or $78.5 million, comes from Chesterfield’s local CVTA revenue.
There’s another $36 million in reserves budgeted for the project, as well as $39.4 million in debt.
Under CDOT’s schedule for Phase I, preliminary engineering and environmental permitting will be finished by the end of this year. Right-of-way acquisition and utility relocations will be completed next year, with construction slated to begin in 2025.
Combined with a planned four-lane extension of Woolridge Road to Route 288 and the widening of an existing 1.2-mile stretch of Woolridge Road between Genito and Lacoc roads, Phase I of the Powhite Extension “will help distribute traffic more evenly and create new connections for motorists,” Epps said.
CDOT has funding for two other projects that will make an immediate positive impact for residents and businesses along the western Hull Street Road corridor.
The first, adding a lane to the exit ramp from southbound Route 288 onto westbound Route 360, is expected to be under construction this summer. That project also includes a park-and-ride lot that will make it easier for commuters to carpool.
The Bailey Bridge Connector is in the final stages of being advertised for construction bids. It will provide a direct link from Brad McNeer Parkway to Bailey Bridge Road, allowing motorists who live in neighborhoods south of Hull Street Road to bypass the 288/360 interchange altogether.
“We’ve got a series of projects that are about to go to construction that will change the way people move in this area forever, so we’re definitely excited about all of those jobs,” Epps added.