HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — Longer backups on the highway is hardly something drivers celebrate, however, Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck says if a new city traffic proposal is successful and fewer cars clog up city streets, he would be pleased.
In an effort to try and rid the Phoebus area of gridlock on weekday afternoons near the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, Hampton will temporarily turn the Mallory Street overpass into a one-way from 3-6 p.m. beginning April 1.
Cars and trucks coming from Phoebus will only be able to make a right onto I-64 west during those hours. Those used to getting onto I-64 east, which heads toward Norfolk, will have to go to Settlers Landing Road or another entry ramp.
Tuck says the goal is the same as previous proposals: deter drivers from unnecessarily interrupting the flow of traffic on the highway as major parts of the HRBT expansion project begin to ramp up.
“The intent is to try and get people who are driving via their apps and their apps are sending them this direction in order to bypass traffic through the interstate,” Tuck said. “They are sending them through our city.”
Heavy traffic heading east on I-64 is one of the major reasons behind the HRBT expansion. Most afternoons, traffic moves well below the speed limit from N. King Street in Hampton to Norfolk.
In an effort to avoid the delays, many drivers openly admit they get off the interstate and use city streets until they re-enter the highway at Mallory Street. That causes traffic queuing for the Mallory Street on-ramp to often back up east toward the Phoebus business district, and west and north on Franklin Boulevard, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, and even Emancipation Drive.
The result: clogged traffic at both Hampton University and the Hampton VA Medical Center — and many upset home and business owners.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Jeff Sanford, co-owner of Roberts Antiques on Mellen Street. “They block up all the intersections and make travel miserable.”
In addition, he said it prevents people from visiting his business.
The traffic pattern will only be in place for two months initially, to see if it makes a difference. It’s scaled-down compared to the path City Council began exploring with the Virginia Department of Transportation last year.
VDOT wanted to ask the Federal Highway Administration for permission to close both the on-ramps coming from Mallory Street and Settlers Landing Road from 3-6 p.m. daily. However, in a January meeting, City Manager Mary Bunting said a consultant advised that might only make traffic woes worse.
So, all ramps will stay open. However now, only those coming from the VA Medical Center will be able to take it to I-64 eastbound during those three afternoon hours.
Tuck said he understands that federal law enforcement will post up at the intersection of Harris Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard off Emancipation Drive, and only let veterans, VA staff, guests and contractors through, just as they did for three months of last year.
“It is my understanding they were pleased with how that went,” Tuck said.
Tuck said people should know that the closure will likely cause traffic to back up further on I-64 eastbound in the afternoons.
“We believe it will. But the other thing is this: That’s where the traffic belongs,” Tuck said.
As for Sanford, he is in support of the new proposal that Hampton City Council gave their unofficial “OK” on last week.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens,” Sanford said.