U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (second from left) and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller (center) joined Board of Supervisors Chair Kevin Carroll (second from right) and County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey (right) on a helicopter flight over western Chesterfield.
Chesterfield Board of Supervisors Chairman Kevin Carroll and County Administrator Dr. Joe Casey recently accompanied U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman and Virginia Secretary of Transportation Shep Miller on a helicopter tour of the western Hull Street Road corridor, giving them an aerial perspective of ongoing development and vehicle congestion in the county’s fastest-growing area.
Following a productive meeting with other state and federal officials, the flight departed from the Chesterfield airport around 5 p.m. so Wittman and Miller could see firsthand how commuter traffic backs up from Route 360 onto southbound Route 288 during the evening rush hour.
They also traveled west over the 2,400-acre Upper Magnolia Green property and future Powhite Parkway Extension.
“When discussions are had about transportation funding, we want Rep. Wittman to be able to say he has personally seen this part of his district,” Carroll said.
While Wittman has represented the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives since 2007, he’s still fairly new to Chesterfield. That’s because the western half of the county was part of the 7th District until December 2021, when it was redrawn into the 1st District by the Virginia Supreme Court.
Likewise, Miller was appointed as the state’s top transportation official by Gov. Glenn Youngkin in January 2022.
“The flyover was an important opportunity to see and learn about the conditions of highways in the area, hear some of the challenges and get an update on future plans to make our roads safer and more efficient for travelers and commuters. I look forward to our continued work together to deliver results Virginians deserve,” Wittman said.
Chesterfield’s approved fiscal year 2024 budget includes $153.9 million for construction of Phase I of the Powhite Extension, a 2.25-mile project that 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.
That funding will be pooled with $16.1 million already appropriated to provide a total of $170 million for Phase I.
Recognizing that the total cost of extending Powhite Parkway from its current terminus all the way to Route 360 is estimated at $700 million, county leaders continue to engage in discussions with federal and state counterparts about how to potentially make up the difference.
“Chesterfield has made a significant investment with the first $170 million. Now it’s about getting other officials involved in helping us find a creative way to fund this project,” Carroll said.
Jesse Smith, deputy county administrator for community development, acknowledged the Powhite Extension is “a large piece of the puzzle” in mitigating peak-hour traffic volume in the Route 288/360 interchange by allowing commuters to bypass that area altogether.
Combined with two other projects that are in the construction pipeline -- a four-lane extension of Woolridge Road to 288 and the Bailey Bridge Connector, which will provide a direct link from Brad McNeer Parkway to Bailey Bridge Road – Chesterfield will spend more than $250 million over the next few years to alleviate congestion in the western Hull Street Road corridor.
Now, three decades after the Powhite Extension was originally added as a dotted line on the countywide thoroughfare plan, interest in developing the 1,700-acre Upper Magnolia Green West property as a technology village gives Chesterfield its best chance yet to secure funding for that long-awaited project.
Gov. Youngkin and state economic development officials have identified it as the No. 1 large site in Virginia to market to large-scale advanced manufacturers.
In January, Chesterfield received a $25 million grant from the Virginia Business Ready Sites program for engineering work at Upper Magnolia Green West: design of an initial pad site, onsite water, sewer and gas improvements and detailed design of offsite infrastructure, including the Powhite Extension.
Congress, meanwhile, has passed bipartisan bills appropriating $1.2 trillion to infrastructure improvements and another $52 billion to bolster domestic semiconductor production.
That is one of the eight specific uses permitted under the Upper Magnolia Green West zoning, which requires the Board of Supervisors to approve an alignment, timeline and financing plan for the Powhite Extension before the property can be developed.
“There is more funding available, not just for infrastructure but also for development, than there has been in years past,” Smith said. “We’re trying to get everything set up to be as competitive as we can be for the long-term health of the county and its employment base.”
The Powhite Extension will provide much-needed relief to the road network in an area that has experienced rapid residential growth over the past decade. Developing the Upper Magnolia Green West site for a commercial project can only strengthen Chesterfield’s case for state and federal funding of the extension.
To that end, the county recently executed an agreement with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to begin the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process and finalize an alignment for the final leg of the roadway between Woolridge Road and Route 360.
The comprehensive environmental review is expected to take two years.