PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - Portsmouth City Council approved a resolution Tuesday that asks the Governor and the Secretary of Transportation to help with the city's continuing tunnel woes.
"We're trying to get everybody together to say the survival of our businesses depends on bidirectional traffic," said Council Member Elizabeth Psimas.
Portsmouth wants two-way traffic in the eastbound tube of the Downtown tunnel on weekends while the westbound lanes are closed for maintenance work.
Council members say it's not just the traffic headaches hurting the city; the closures are also hitting Olde Town businesses hard. Some businesses have reported losing 30 to 50 percent of their revenue during weekends because of the closures.
"It's not just the loss of business now. If it's allowed to continue, it's going to continue to impact business loss in the future," said owner of Bruttis Charles Greenwood.
VDOT and its private partner Elizabeth River Crossings say they can't open the eastbound tunnel to two-way traffic because it's unsafe. Council members aren't buying that.
"That argument doesn't fly with me," said council member Bill Moody. "We have the Midtown that is bidirectional."
"Those of us who are over 40 know the original tunnel started off bidirectional," said Psimas. "It's been bidirectional before in times of emergency."
When 10 On Your Side asked ERC about this earlier, they said the tunnel is too old to withstand two-way traffic now.
"Its like comparing apples to oranges," ERC spokeswoman Leila Rice. "The last time we had bidirectional at the westbound Downtown Tunnel for rehabilitation was 1986, which was the last time the tunnel was rehabbed. It's a 61-year-old tunnel. It was shut down for an entire six months -- not five days on, two days off."
Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright said he talked to Governor Bob McDonnell on Monday about the tunnel problems. City Council has also asked members of the Commonwealth Transportation Board and General Assembly to intervene as well.
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