HAMPTON, Va. — It's no secret traffic in Hampton Roads can be brutal during rush hour, especially when crossing the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.
Wednesday night, Hampton City Council voted 6-1 to move forward with a plan to close ramps in two locations near the HRBT, at North Mallory Street and at Settler's Landing Road.
The city council took up the issue during the legislative session of Wednesday's city council meeting, the second public input opportunity for citizens to share concerns and thoughts about the project.
“Would enhance flow of traffic on I-64 by preventing some of the weaving and re-entering and exiting that’s going on," Allison Richter, a Deputy District Administrator of Operations and Maintenance with VDOT, said.
The closures, if approved through the Federal Highway Administration as well, would be temporarily in place between 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. every day, until the completion of the express lane project, which Richter says would be 2025.
“The idea being that it’d help manage some of the cut-through traffic going off the interstate, going through the city, then back on the interstate," Richter said.
V-dot said if this proposal gets approved, drivers would most likely re-route to LaSalle Avenue, Interstate 664, or have to adjust their travel times.
Some people who live nearby aren’t so sure about this solution.
“I think our local, elected officials need to call on the Secretary of Transportation to come up with other viable options," Will Moffett, a former Hampton City Councilman, said.
He lives by the LaSalle exit, which under the ramp closure proposal would be a "detour" route for drivers, and wants the city to look at different fixes.
“The technology is there for modeling and simulation, there has to be a better option than this one solution," he said.
During the city council meeting, 16 people signed up to share their thoughts and frustrations.
One mother who is in favor of closing the ramps said her son's bus stop is impacted by the existing traffic.
"He called me and he said, 'mom, you would not believe. My bus did not drop me off at the stop because they couldn't get through.'"
One Hampton business owner said the traffic from drivers trying to cut around I-64 and then get back on near the tunnel is impacting shops and restaurants.
"Customers canceling appointments or arriving late to congestion."
Leaders and staff from Hampton University and the Hampton VA say closing those ramps will impact how they can exit their buildings.
"The impact of closing the ramps of I-64 eastbound leading out of the Hampton VA’s medical center would be a detriment to our veterans that served our country and to our employees," says Dr. Taquisa Simmons, Director of the Hampton VA Medical Center.
Another employee of the VA echoed her sentiment.
"My charge to city council would be to come to the medical center at 3:00 and sit in that traffic trying to leave. We have parents, we have family members, we have people who are trying to get home and I live in Hampton and it’s taken me 45-50 minutes to get home going out of the back gate and I just think that is atrocious."
Now that council has voted to support the plan, the city and VDOT will request approval from the Federal Highway Administration.
Council members emphasized that even if the FHWA approves the plan, it doesn’t mean the city has to do it if they come up with a better plan in the meantime.