PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WVEC) -- Have you ever wondered what’s on the other side of the doors you see when driving through the new Midtown Tunnel West?

“From the roadway side, they actually have a large green demarcation around them to draw attention for the drivers,” says Dan Norman, ERC's Construction Director.

It may surprise you to learn the doors actually lead to something designed for you. While you may think they are just for employees, the doors of the new Midtown Tunnel West are actually there to keep you safe.

“In the event of an emergency within the tunnel, drivers could access this door, slide it open, enter the space, and then find their way to safety,” Norman says.

Recent safety standards require new tunnels across the country be built with an egress corridor, so drivers can escape if ever trapped in the tube. The new Midtown Tunnel is the only one with this feature in Hampton Roads.

“If there were a fire within the tunnel, the space becomes pressurized,” says Norman. “So even if you open the door, smoke and heat from within the tunnel wouldn't enter the space. So you could actually leisurely walk out of the tunnel into a safe area.”

Detectors in the space will notify officials that there is a problem.

“If someone were to open [a] phone box or open the door, [a] camera would come up on a display in our operations control room and we'd be alerted immediately that someone had accessed the space,” Norman says.

Who would've thought those doors were actually there for you? Good to know, but Norman says drivers must remember that “this space is not to be accessed except for an emergency. This isn't an exit. This is an emergency exit.”

The new Midtown Tunnel opened to westbound traffic (Norfolk to Portsmouth) on June 17th. To learn more about the history of the Midtown Tunnel and the construction of the new westbound tube, visit https://www.driveert.com/.