Jul. 21--A long-desired road directly linking Richmond International Airport to the Pocahontas Parkway has moved closer to reality.
The U.S. Department of Transportation approved a $150 million federal loan that will allow for the 1.6-mile Airport Connector's construction, officials said yesterday.
Work on the toll road should start next year and be completed by early 2010.
The Richmond Airport Connector will join Airport Drive with the Pocahontas Parkway about a third of a mile west of Monahan Road in Henrico County.
The new road should reduce driving time from Chesterfield County and the Tri-Cities area to the airport, according to the parkway's management company, and also relieve congestion on Laburnum Avenue.
Using the Airport Connector will cost $1, officials said, on top of the $2.25 cash toll -- $2 with a Smart Tag -- on the main Pocahontas Parkway.
The parkway -- state Route 895 -- crosses the James River to link Interstate 95 and Chippenham Parkway in Chesterfield County with Interstate 295 in Henrico.
Last year, the state leased the financially weak Pocahontas toll road to the Australia-based Transurban Group for 99 years. In return, Transurban paid off the parkway's $519 million in debts and agreed to build the Airport Connector.
The federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loan allows Transurban to refinance part of its Pocahontas debt and build the connector with money saved by using public financing, officials said.
The connector road is expected to cost about $45 million.
Richmond International Airport's president and chief executive officer Jon E. Mathiasen called the connector a crucial upgrade for an airport that has seen its passenger traffic grow 32 percent in the past two years.
Contact Peter Bacque at (804) 649-6813 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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