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Pocahontas Parkway

State Route 895
Pocahontas Parkway
;">Route information
Maintained by VDOT
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Existed: 1990s – present
;">Major junctions
West end: Template:Jct/extra I-95 / SR 150 near Bensley
East end: Template:Jct/extra I-295 near Varina
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Length:
Length:
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;">Highway system

State Route 895, also known as the Pocahontas Parkway and Pocahontas 895, is a primary state highway in the U.S. state of Virginia. It connects the junction of Interstate 95 and State Route 150 in Chesterfield County with Interstate 295 near Richmond International Airport in Henrico County, forming part of a southeastern bypass of Richmond. Due to a quirk in the evolution of the road, the long-planned designation of Interstate 895 could not be used.

Richmond is located on the fall line of the James River. The 8.8-mile (14.2 km) roadway features the costly high-level Vietnam Veterans Memorial Bridge over the shipping channel of the navigable portion of the tidal James River downstream from the deepwater Port of Richmond to allow ample clearance for ocean-going vessels to pass under. Two people were killed in accidents during the construction of the bridge.

The toll collection facility features the Richmond area's first high-speed open lanes, allowing vehicles to travel through the toll facility at highway speeds with an E-ZPass (formerly Smart Tag) electronic toll collection transponder.

Public-private construction

The highway was built without the use of toll revenue bonds through an innovative public-private partnership. Though the road had been planned for many years, sufficient state and federal construction funds were not available when the road was finally desired. In 1995, the Virginia General Assembly passed the Public-Private Transportation Act allowing private entities to propose innovative solutions for designing, constructing, financing and operating transportation improvements. An acceptable proposal was submitted jointly by Fluor Daniel and Morrison Knudsen, and an agreement was reached.

Interstate designation

Interstate 895
Location: Richmond, Virginia
Length: 8.8 mi (14.2 km)
Existed: 1996–2002

The road was originally planned as Interstate 895. However, in January 2002, when the tolled Interstate. Thus, toll roads using no federal funds and free roads of any funding source are eligible for Interstate designation, but toll roads that use federal funds are not. In this case, $9.28 million of the preliminary engineering (out of a total $324 million cost) was funded by the federal government, and the project ultimately opened as a toll road, disqualifying the road as a bearer of an Interstate shield.

Because of the unique situation, the new roadway was designated as a State Route using the same number, with the expectation that it would be eligible for an Interstate designation upon completion and cession of ownership to the Commonwealth. SR 895 is one of only two routes that violates Virginia's numbering convention, in which primary state highways are numbered below 600. The other such route is the unsigned State Route 785, planned as Interstate 785.

Acquisition by Transurban

In May 2006, the Pocahontas Parkway was acquired by Transurban, an Australian corporation that runs toll roads. Transurban, which owns and operates the CityLink tollway in Melbourne and the M2 Hills Motorway toll road in Sydney, said that it had agreed to acquire a 99-year concession on the Pocahontas Parkway for a total cost of $US611 million (A$815 million).

Write-Off and Transfer to Creditors

In June 2012, Transurban wrote down to 0 value its 75% stake in the roadway, and reportedly considered bankruptcy.[1] Later, in June 2013, it was announced that earnings for the road did not cover debt service, and that Transurban was planning to relinquish ownership to the consortium of European banks that provided over $300 million in financing for the project.[2] Despite the de facto bankruptcy, normal operations for the road are expected as current revenue is sufficient to cover operating costs.

Criteria to be built successfully as toll road

Since there are non-toll alternative routes available, certain criteria were considered before determining that the road could be successfully built and financed through tolls.

  1. The relatively short road had high construction costs due principally to the requirement for a high-level bridge across the James River.
  2. Of local motorists, the principal beneficiaries are businesses and residents of Chesterfield County, although very little of the roadway is actually located within that county. Thus, agreement among the regional local governments to spend limited resources on a costly roadway which primarily benefits only a single jurisdiction was problematic.
  3. The new road saves considerable time and mileage for many users, allowing a cost/benefit decision by users to make use of the new road and payment of tolls more likely.
  4. Planned better access to the Richmond International Airport via an additional exit will increase usage in the future.
  5. The newer toll collection technology reduced operating costs and enhanced the time saving aspect for users.

Problems

Several unforeseen problems impacted the project.

  1. The loss of Interstate designation. This may have ended up becoming marginal, as the major volume is local users, many of whom were long aware of the high costs in time and mileage of alternative routing.
  2. The soil on the south side of the James River included shrink-swell clay which necessitated deeper foundations than originally planned.
  3. In a final design phase, officials of the City of Richmond (city limits are just north of the bridge) protested the lack of access to and from I-95 in the direction of the city. With the prospect of airport access from Route 895, Richmond feared losing tourist business. A compromise reached provided a costly ramp for traffic headed toward the city, but not one for return traffic.

Exit list

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References

External links

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  • Pocahontas 895 website
  • Virginia Highways Project: VA 895
  • Roads to the Future: Route 895 - Pocahontas Parkway
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