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2014-03-12 / News Briefs

After long battle, new-look RMA bill awaits governor

Michael Buettner


After years of political wrangling, a bill to give Chesterfield County equal representation on the regional authority that oversees the Downtown Expressway system, which includes the main Powhite Parkway toll plaza, passes both houses of the General Assembly. See story page 6. 
Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer After years of political wrangling, a bill to give Chesterfield County equal representation on the regional authority that oversees the Downtown Expressway system, which includes the main Powhite Parkway toll plaza, passes both houses of the General Assembly. See story page 6. Ash Daniel/Chesterfield Observer The counties of Chesterfield and Henrico and the city of Richmond may soon have equal representation on the regional authority that owns and operates the Downtown Expressway system after the state Senate unanimously approved a bill to restructure the authority’s board.

The bill, sponsored by Delegate Manoli Loupassi (R-68th District), sailed through the Senate last week after gaining approval in the House of Delegates earlier in the session. Similar bills that Loupassi introduced in the legislature in previous years had failed, largely because of opposition from Richmond officials.

“It’s been a long time coming, and I’m very excited that we were finally able to get it passed,” Loupassi said. “I think it will be a good thing, long term, for the region.”

When the RMA was created by the General Assembly in 1966, Richmond put up $20 million to fund construction of the agency’s first planned project, a toll road that eventually became the Downtown Expressway. In addition, the city acquired the properties needed as right-of-way for the road.

In return for its large commitment, the city was given the right to appoint six of the RMA’s 11 directors, with Chesterfield and Henrico appointing two directors each and the Commonwealth Transportation Board naming one member.

Chesterfield officials have been unhappy with that arrangement for some time, in large part because county residents pay the majority of the tolls on the two toll roads the authority controls, the Downtown Expressway and Powhite Parkway in the city. (The Powhite Parkway extension, which runs from Chippenham

Parkway to state Route 288 in the county, is owned and operated by the state). With only two of the 11 seats, the county also has little input when it comes to raising tolls, which occurs about every 10 years, and other decisions relating to management of the expressway system.

Under the new structure, each locality will have five seats on the RMA board, with the Commonwealth Transportation Board continuing to appoint one member. Once signed by the governor, the changes will go into effect on July 1.

Police seek suspect in robbery of store owner

Police are hoping the public may be able to provide a lead into a New Year’s Day robbery and beating at a Centralia convenience store.

The Chesterfield County Police Department said they are continuing to investigate the incident at Spencer’s gas station at 5144 Centralia Road around 5:10 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1. Earle Spencer Jr., the owner, was outside the store and in the process of opening when he was approached from behind and struck repeatedly in the head. The suspect fled the scene with an undisclosed amount of cash.

Spencer was taken to Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond with severe bruising to his face and head.

Spencer’s family is offering a reward of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the attacker. Anyone who has information may be able to receive an additional award by calling the Chesterfield County Police Department at 748-1251 or Crime Solvers at 748-0660. Tips may also be submitted at www.crimesolvers.net.

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