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Spare Interchange: How Chesterfield Saved $27 million



When Chesterfield County’s Board of Supervisors approved construction in 2009 of a new interchange on Interstate 295 at Meadowville Road, it was taking a leap of faith that officials could find the money somewhere. The project, a critical tie-in for the 1,600-acre Meadowville Technology Park, was priced at $40 million. At the time, county officials had identified only $8.7 million for the project.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Dec. 15, the interchange opened for traffic. The county could claim, “mission accomplished,” though not by the usual gambit of panhandling big bucks from someone else, e.g., the state or federal government.

How did Chesterfield execute one of its top economic-development priorities while other road projects across Virginia are languishing for lack of funds?

The first trick was redesigning the interchange from a cloverleaf to a diamond configuration; the capacity was smaller but more than adequate to handle near-term traffic projections. That brought down the cost to $21 million.

The second was finding a source of local dollars: the revenue stream from the incremental growth in business, professional and occupational license taxes. That allowed the county to borrow $6.7 million, supplementing the meager state and federal funds that had been set aside.

The third trick was putting the project out to bid in a hyper-competitive environment as a design-build contract, which allows the contractor to perform design and construction work in tandem, rather than sequentially, thus saving time and money. The bid came in at 40 percent below estimate. The final tab: only $13 million.

In describing the project at the governor’s transportation conference earlier this month, County Administrator Jay Stegmaier gave fulsome praise to the McDonnell administration. “I can’t say enough about the way VDOT worked with us,” he said.

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