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Pilot program to pump brakes on drivers taking shortcuts through Downtown Hampton starts April 1

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Posted at 9:50 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-24 08:07:03-05

HAMPTON, Va. – Hampton City Council members voted unanimously Wednesday night to move forward with a plan to help ease traffic jams on side streets stemming from the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

Rush hour heading toward the HRBT snarls traffic for miles.

Many drivers like Andrew Stith, who’s lived in Hampton all his life, says a fix is long overdue.

“Sometimes I sit in traffic for at least two to three hours,” said Stith.

To avoid those traffic headaches, some drivers jump off I-64 and take shortcuts downtown and through Phoebus. That, however, only clogs side streets and could take upwards of 30 minutes to drive a city block.

“Our challenge is that we have been trying to deal with this for the last four years, and it’s gotten worse,” said Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck.

Mayor Tuck said a two-month pilot plan could help.

One of the main shortcuts takes drivers over the Mallory Street Bridge, but the city is trying to choke that off by restricting that path to traffic one way during the height of rush hour.

Drivers would have to use the Settler’s Landing Road exit, which many fear would just create a ripple effect of backups there.

“We are fully aware of that; we’re fully aware of that,” Tuck said. “It’ll make a lot of folks inconvenienced.”

The mayor said a Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) study done before the start of the pandemic showed that during rush hour, an average of 700 to 800 cars drove across the Mallory Street Bridge every day, causing traffic jams.

Still, city leaders believe moving forward with the pilot will ease those jams.

“We believe the vast majority of those individuals who are coming through Phoebus to get to 64 east are not Hampton residents,” Tuck said. “They’re individuals who are using the different traffic apps. They’re being directed that way to get past the backups on the interstate.”

Some, however, aren’t convinced it’ll stop those drivers cutting through.

“They can try it, but it’s just one of those things,” said Stith. “It’s just one of those things.”

The pilot will start April 1. It’ll be tested out for 60 days.

Meantime, the city council will figure out more ways to help downtown.