HAMPTON, Va. - Members of Hampton City Council voted Wednesday night to temporarily close the eastbound I-64 ramps at Mallory Street and Settlers Landing Road to ease traffic.
The proposal passed 6-1.
The city proposed to temporarily close the two ramps every day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. until the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion project wraps up in 2025.
They believe it’s a solution to the ongoing issue of cars tangled up in traffic heading eastbound to the HRB. The ramps are being used as a “cut-through” to get ahead of traffic making matters worse.
Sheila Elliott said traffic at the Hampton VA hospital heading toward the HRBT gets backed up for miles during rush hour.
Elliott represents dozens of medical professionals as the AFGE Local 2328 union president for the Hampton VA. She said the workers there do not believe closing the nearby eastbound Mallory Street ramp is the answer.
“I don't know of anyone at this facility that wants this temporary gate closure,” she said. “Nobody.”
Many people are divided on the closures and spoke out at Wednesday’s public hearing.
John Horn, who lives on Woodland Road said, “I’ve been living there 17 years and I’ve never seen the mess that we’ve had this year. I don’t see it ever getting better unless we stop this.”
The proposal to install the gates at the two ramps is now moving forward.
Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck said the city doesn’t have any other option at this point and as they move forward with the long process, they can try and figure out other solutions to keep the ramps open.
“We are trying as best we can, work with a situation that really is not tenable,” Tuck said. “It cannot sustain itself as it currently is. It’s a public safety matter.”
The city said it’ll help ease traffic flow and cut back on the number of drivers taking shortcuts through side streets in the downtown Hampton and Phoebus areas, causing traffic jams and headaches for many business owners, including Amy Smith.
“Mellen street, Mallory, Hope Street, Curry Street, all the side roads get completely shut down, gridlocked,” said Smith.
Smith owns Honey House Boutique on E. Mellen St. in the heart of Phoebus. She supports the ramp closures saying the snarled traffic near the Mallory Street exit causes her to lose customers.
“They’re not going to come here and say, oh look there's a boutique. I've been sitting in traffic for 45 minutes, let me go shop,” Smith said. “They’re ready to get home. I can tell you I have not once ever had a customer come in from sitting in traffic.”
Several others at the public hearing argue closures would only bring the traffic nightmare to another neighborhood and add up to 45 minutes to some commutes.
Sheila Elliott said there has to be a better solution for staff and veterans they serve.
“I feel like it was very short sighted the way this was done,” she said. “I guess I might as well say, irresponsible, to put something out that really has not been studied and have our veterans afraid that they're going to get caught up in traffic and can't get back home in a timely manner.”
The gates will most likely go up starting early next year and stay in place during peak times until construction of the HRBT expansion project is completed.
The plan is dependent on approval from Federal Highway Administration which has the final say.
Hampton City Council held one other public hearing on the gate closure proposal, which was earlier this month.