HAMPTON, Va. - It first debuted in 1957. The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel was the first ever crossing built between two man made islands; an engineering feat destroying distance.
"To get here we have journeyed a long way together," said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine at Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony.
63 years later we are getting our first look at congestion relief on the I-64 HBRT. A corridor that connects the two thriving port communities of Norfolk and Hampton.
"While so much of our lives changed during the pandemic, congestion on the HRBT has remained remarkably consistent," said Valentine.
Gridlock, standstill and frustration is a headache for the 100,000 drivers who use the HRBT daily.
"Since July, traffic volumes have been nearly 95 percent of historic average," said Valentine.
But relief begins now. Governor Ralph Northam joinng local leaders Thursday in Hampton, to break ground on the HRBT Expansion Project.
"You wont have to wonder if it is going to take you 5 minutes or an hour or more to get through the tunnel," said Governor Northam.
At $3.8 billion, it is the largest construction project in the Commonwealth's history.
"We are making critical investment in the infrastructure of our region," said Northam.
Two new twin lane bored tunnels west of the existing tunnels will mean four lanes of traffic for a total of eight lanes of capacity across the water.
"Travel will be safer and more reliable," said the Governor. "We are supporting families, commerce, shipbuilding, tourism, our military and The Port of Virginia.
The bridge tunnel expansion, also a boost to the economy. It it set to bring in more than 4.6 billion in investment, 28,000 new jobs, and will support emergency evacuation readiness.
"We are divided by water, bridges, and tunnels so when we have better connections it will literally bring us all together," said Northam.
The expansion project is set to be complete in November of 2025.