VDOT will brief City Council on alternatives, cost to relieve I-64 congestion

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(Courtesy of vbgov.com)

(Courtesy of vbgov.com)

City Council will be briefed today on options to relieve congestion at the Interstate Highway 64 Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, along with the cost and impacts of the different plans.

The briefing comes at a Council workshop, slated for 4 p.m. Angel Deem, the environmental division director for the Virginia Department of Transportation, will go over a recent draft Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the Hampton Roads Crossing Study (HRCS). The draft SEIS discusses the history of the study, alternatives considered, environmental effects of the alternatives, temporary-construction effects and more. In a nutshell, it targets congestion and ways to alleviate it.

“The purpose of the HRCS is to consider alternatives that relieve congestion at the I-64 [Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel] in a manner that improves accessibility, transit, emergency evacuation, and military and goods movement along the primary transportation corridors in the Hampton Roads region, including the I-64, I-664, I-564, and Route 164 corridors,” the executive summary says. The summary cites “inadequate” capacity and congestion on existing roads and highways. It is designed to address several “needs,” including: the need to improve emergency-evacuation capacity, regional accessibility, the ability of the military to move throughout the area and the need to improve access to port facilities, which impacts regional commerce, according to the executive summary.

City Manager Dave Hansen did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

Alternatives for reducing I-64 congestion

The draft SEIS considers four build alternatives and one no-build alternative, meaning no improvements. The total estimated costs of construction range from $3.3 billion to $12.5 billion.

Alternative A At a total estimated cost of $3.3 billion, this option would create a six-lane highway along I-64 from I-664 in Hampton to the I-564 interchange in Norfolk. A parallel bridge-tunnel would be built west of the existing I-64 Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel; the tunnel width would match the increased capacity on the approaches.

Alternative B This approach, at a total estimated cost of $6.6 billion, would include the improvements under Alternative A, with additional ones along the existing I-564 corridor, extending from I-64 west across the Elizabeth River through a new bridge-tunnel. A new road would stretch south from the new bridge-tunnel, along the east side of the Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area, and connect to existing state Route 164. Route 164 would be widened to I-664.

Alternative C At a total estimated cost of $12.5 billion, this option would include improvements along I-564, across the Elizabeth River and south to Route 164. This includes the Alternative B improvements, but not the improvements to I-64 or Route 164.  This alternative would continue west from I-564 over the water and connect to I-664. This would widen I-664 from I-64 in Hampton to I-264 in Chesapeake.

A parallel bridge-tunnel would be built west of the existing Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel; the tunnel width would match the increased capacity on the approaches. Alternative C also converts to transit-only the HOV lanes along I-564 in Norfolk. The I-564 Connector and the I-664 Connector would be built with one transit-only lane in each direction. These transit-only lanes would continue north in each direction along I-664 to the terminus with I-64 in Hampton.

Alternative D At a total estimated cost of $11.9 billion, this would include improvements to I-64 between Hampton and Norfolk, with a new parallel bridge-tunnel west of the current Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. It also includes improvements along the existing I-564 corridor, from I-64 west across the Elizabeth River through a new bridge-tunnel. A new road would proceed south from the new bridge-tunnel, along the east side of Craney Island Dredged Material Management Area, and connect to existing Route 164.

In addition, Route 164 would be widened to I-664, and I-664 would be widened from Hampton to Chesapeake with a new parallel bridge-tunnel west of the existing Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel.

Possible traffic/toll effects

The proposed alternatives can accommodate HOV lanes, HOT lanes or general-purpose lanes, according to the executive summary. Any tolls that are part of a chosen alternative would be analyzed in the final SEIS.

Daily traffic is set to increase on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel in general, because travel in Hampton Roads is expected to increase between now and 2040, according to the executive summary. However, compared to not making any improvements, alternatives A and B would increase daily traffic on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, while slightly decreasing traffic on the Monitor-Merrimac. Alternative C would decrease traffic on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and increase traffic on the Monitor-Merrimac, compared to making no improvements.

With Alternative D, an overall increase in traffic would be split between the two. Traffic on both bridge-tunnels would increase slightly more than without the improvements.

Public Input

The draft SEIS, which was completed last month, will be subject to a 45-day public comment period. It is now open and available here for public review and comment, according to a copy of VDOT’s presentation to Council, which is available here. The comment period will close Sept. 19.

VDOT will host two open-house style public hearings on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8. Staff from VDOT will be on hand to discuss the study’s findings and answer questions. The meetings will be:

Sept. 7 at the Hampton Roads Convention Center, 1610 Coliseum Dr. in Hampton, from 5-7 p.m. The rain date is Sept. 14.

Sept. 8 at Quality Suites, 6280 Northampton Blvd. in Norfolk from 5-7 p.m. The rain date is  Sept. 15.

Next Steps/Timeline

There is no current schedule for construction, according to the executive summary.

When the public comment period for the draft SEIS is over, VDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and other agencies will identify a preferred approach. That recommendation will then be presented to the Commonwealth Transportation Board. If the board approves, a final SEIS will be prepared. Funding will then be identified for the plan, and the Federal Highway Administration can then issue a record of decision.

The final SEIS and record of decision are targeted for 2017, according to VDOT’s presentation.

The current draft SEIS comes after almost two decades of administrative decisions and studies addressing congestion on I-64 in Hampton Roads. An earlier round was completed in 2001, when the Federal Highway Administration issued a record of decision based on previous environmental impact statements. Ultimately, the project did not go forward, due in part to “fiscal constraints” and “lack of public and political support,” according to the executive summary. The current draft SEIS was necessary because so much time had elapsed since the earlier studies and “[e]nvironmental regulations and conditions” in Hampton Roads have “changed substantially” since 2001, the executive summary said.

 

 

 

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