News Flash

* Hampton City News

Posted on: August 12, 2021

Hampton, VDOT look to solutions for daily afternoon traffic jams leading to I-64

Newsflash of interstate 64 Eastbound at Mallory Street

Aug 13, 2021 - VDOT and Hampton city officials believe they have found at least a partial solution for daily traffic jams caused by drivers who try to avoid bridge-tunnel backups by getting off the interstate and cutting through downtown and Phoebus.

It's a measure that's seen success in the Ocean View and Willoughby areas of Norfolk for years: Closing the ramps closest to the tunnel in peak rush-hour traffic.

Christopher Hall, the district engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation, noted that the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel is "very near capacity" with about 2,700 vehicles an hour during the peak period. Add an average of 40 traffic-stopping incidents a day, and you have the ongoing problem faced by Hampton residents every afternoon.

The temporary ramp closures would happen from 3-6 p.m. on two eastbound ramps seven days a week (with the ability for access by emergency vehicles).

Westbound drivers on I-64 exiting at the Settlers Landing and Mallory exits would not be affected, nor would traffic entering I-64 westbound at those two areas. The eastbound ramps would be open at other times. The Mallory Street Bridge over the interstate between the Veterans Affairs Hospital/Hampton University and the Phoebus neighborhood would remain open, even while it undergoes expansion and replacement. 

Phoebus and downtown residents and business owners have complained about the backups for a few years because of the gridlock. At times some residents can't even get out of their driveways and customers can't get to restaurants. 

The city tried other measures first but found only limited improvement. Traffic lane delineators, were installed on Settlers Landing Road to keep drivers headed toward eastbound I-64 in one lane along Settlers Landing instead of halting traffic in both lanes while they cut over to the ramp at the last minute. In downtown Phoebus, signs have been added to reduce neighborhood congestion, but violations are common when police aren't actively monitoring the traffic.

This solution isn't without impacts. It will keep more drivers on 64, potentially keeping or increasing the backup there because people won't get off to try to cut in line at the closer ramps. People who work in downtown Hampton but live in Norfolk will have to drive west to LaSalle or Mercury to go to South Hampton Roads between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Mayor Donnie Tuck noted that those drivers have other options, including using I-664. The predictably of the closures could also lead some employers to stagger work shifts so commuters can avoid those peak times, noted City Manager Mary Bunting.

"This has been an ongoing problem," said Tuck. "If we do nothing, we will have to deal with an unsustainable, untenable situation" for years to come.

Although VDOT and Hampton agree, the Federal Highway Administration still must give approval for the plan. If approved, this would be a temporary patch on the situation. The solution is the widening of I-64 and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, which are underway. Building a new tunnel takes time, however, and isn't expected to be complete until 2025. There are concerns that the construction could even add to those backups in the short term, although VDOT has pledged to keep all lanes open, except for occasional late-night closures of a lane at a time.


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