The Virginia Dept. of Transportation is taking the “if at first you don’t succeed” approach to luring private-sector interest in its $2-billion U.S. Route 460 Improvements Project.

Unsatisfied with the response to its 2006 request for proposals to develop, construct and operate a 55-mi, four-lane toll road between Petersburg and Suffolk, the agency has issued a new solicitation that it says reflects “dramatically” changed market conditions, such as the absence of any federal or state funding contribution, and significant reductions in the agency’s staffing.

VDOT Chief Engineer Malcolm Kerley says the goal of the new solicitation is, “to get more competition and more innovation for what we feel is a critically needed project.”

The new highway would parallel the existing stretch of Route 460, which has all at-grade intersections and passes through several small towns with lower speed limits. Along with facilitating freight movement to and from Virginia’s ports, the new road is envisioned as a primary hurricane evacuation route. Under state law, such a designation would allow the Governor to waive certain permitting requirements in order to facilitate development.

And instead of a complete highway with seven interchanges as specified in the 2006 solicitation, VDOT would accept a phased approach with a minimum initial scope of work, such as only one interchange at each end, and future interchanges constructed as funding becomes available.

The new solicitation envisions a concession term of up to 75 years, with a possible maximum term of 99 years. The concessionaire will also be responsible for all land acquisition costs, but have the opportunity to construct facilities adjacent to the highway that could help generate revenue to pay for it.