HAMPTON, Va. – During the peak summer season, the HRBT can be a traffic nightmare, with backups for several miles.
Many drivers use the eastbound I-64 ramps at Mallory Street and Settlers Landing Road as a cut-through, shaving minutes off their commute heading into the tunnel.
Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck said it’s clogging the city streets, and that’s a problem.
“It is hurting our businesses,” he said. “It is hurting our residents. It is actually creating a public safety issue. Particularly in Phoebus, when they go on the side streets, we have ‘don’t block the box’ because we have a fire station there, but people are not paying attention to that, so they’re creating a situation where our fire trucks can’t get out. Our emergency equipment can’t get out to assist our customers.”
To ease traffic, the city is proposing to temporarily close the two eastbound ramps every day from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. until the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion project wraps up in 2025.
At Wednesday’s public hearing, Tim Receveur, who works with businesses in Phoebus through “Partnership for a new Phoebus,” said a recent survey found many people support the closure.
“What we found was 85% of Phoebus residents that answered the survey were in favor of the temporary ramp closures,” Receveur said. “Fifteen percent were not.”
Several other people who spoke out, however, don’t want the ramps closed.
Michelle Deneke, who lives less than a mile away from the tunnel’s entrance and is directly impacted by the Mallory Street traffic, does not support any barriers to the ramps. She said Downtown Hampton and Phoebus need the cars to come through to entice people to spend money at restaurants and shops.
“There's a lot of nice new restaurants down there,” Deneke said. “I think if you shut that entrance to Mallory, you’re going to shut off the opportunity for those businesses to grow, and we really need businesses here in Hampton so they don't start taxing me on my property. My taxes is ridiculous.”
There will be another public hearing on September 22, where a vote is expected. If the proposal passes, gate closures won’t go up right away. That will most likely happen starting in January pending approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
For more information about the HRBT expansion project, click here.