Just in time for Thanksgiving, motorists across South Hampton Roads can look out over the expanses of smooth, black asphalt on interstates 64 and 264 and say it — finally.
The work is done.
A $128-million effort to rehabilitate the roads — an overhaul that was prompted by public outrage over the condition of the freeways — has been completed. VDOT spokeswoman Paula Miller confirmed by email Saturday that the projects and their associated lane and ramp closures were finished, slightly ahead of schedule and nearly two years after the projects had begun.
Motorists have been enjoying pothole-free rides for some time now; some stretches of once-terrible pavement were repaired and paved over as long ago as fall 2013. The final stages of work went beyond the driving surface to new or improved drainage, barriers, guardrails and markings.
The projects began with nightly lane closures that backed up traffic so construction crews could cut out and remove whole sections of deteriorated concrete and pour new pavement in time for it to be ready for the morning commute. Night by night, month by month, that work made its way through 163 lane-miles of interstate, according to VDOT’s statistics.
After the underlying concrete was fixed, the roads received multiple layers of asphalt. VDOT says the restoration work will extend the pavement life of the interstates by 15 years or more.
Major swaths of I-64 and I-264 in Virginia Beach and Norfolk now look so new that longtime motorists may have difficulty convincing recent transplants just how bad the roads were, but public disgust over the interstates was deep and widespread less than three years ago. Navigating the potholes was a harrowing affair.
A tipping point came in February 2013, when a rainstorm exacerbated the situation by loosening up patchwork repairs. The potholes were so numerous that even a VDOT manager expressed amazement. Dozens if not hundreds of drivers suffered flat tires or other damage to their vehicles.
State transportation officials began working toward a long-term fix in the months that followed, leading to the rehabilitation work that has just now concluded.