UPDATE: Downtown Tunnel WB will not close this weekend, officials now looking at possible new schedule

Posted at 7:29 PM, Oct 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-18 19:03:34-04

Portsmouth, Va. - Forget about that weekend closure at the Downtown Tunnel. It seems plans have changed.

The westbound tube will not be closed this weekend. Transportation officials are considering whether or not they will keep it closed over the weekends. Now VDOT is looking into weeknight closures at the tunnel.

"I do assume that if you have more closures, that that's more traffic mobility setting up and down so the cost to the contract would probably go up," says a Commonwealth Transportation Board Member.

This comes after a huge outcry from city leaders and community leaders about how the closures were hurting the city’s economy.

Now officials are taking action to revise the schedule.

For the last several weekends, the westbound lanes of the Downtown Tunnel have been closed for maintenance.

Business owners in the city say these closures have slashed their revenues by as much as 50%. Now VDOT and ERC are looking into the weekend closure schedule.

“We’re hoping for a final decision by next week to keep the tunnels open from now on on weekends and allow them to do their work on weeknights,” says Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright.

Wright says he has been shaking things up with state leaders to get the closure schedule changed.

But he says it is ultimately a bargaining chip the city is using to get results.

VDOT and the ERC need to access the city’s utilities to further the project. Portsmouth has the power to deny that access.

“Our citizens here and our businesses are having a huge impact and so we had to take some kind of action, and since they want to tap into our utilities to be able to further their part of the project on the MLK, we thought that would be an opportunity to make an offer that would benefit both sides and relieve this stress that’s been put on downtown businesses,” says Wright.

Right now, there’s no word yet on exactly what the revised plan will look like. The tunnel closures were scheduled to go into the spring of next year.