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Transportation official outlines region projects

The executive director of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission told City Council Wednesday that there are 196 lane miles in the Hampton Roads region under construction that will be finished in the next five years, which will have direct and indirect impacts on the Suffolk area.

That includes a new High Rise Bridge and work on Interstate 64 from that point through the Bowers Hill area near Suffolk, and after that, work on the Bowers Hill interchange and on U.S. Route 58.

Phase 1 of the High Rise Bridge and Interstate 64 widening project is estimated to be completed by July 2021 and cost $527 million. As part of the project, it will include widening 8.75 miles of I-64 from I-464 to Bowers Hill. That project will include a new managed lane and left shoulder, and widening of six bridges and the replacement of another.

It also includes a $1.024 billion plan to put in high occupancy travel, or HOT, lanes along a 45-mile stretch of I-64 from Bowers Hill to Jefferson Avenue in Newport News by 2025. Page noted that legislation to allow for HRTAC to impose and collect tolls in HOT lanes on I-64 had passed both the House of Delegates and the Senate.

In answering questions from council members, HRTAC executive director Kevin Page said Route 58 would also be addressed, but not before 2025.

Councilman Tim Johnson expressed concerns about not only getting people around the Tidewater region, but also through the region. That’s why, he said, the U.S. Routes 58 and 460 are important as well. Councilman Roger Fawcett also wants to see work done to Route 58.

“We’d like to see that (Route) 58 corridor worked on, because it’s pretty much a treacherous piece of roadway,” Fawcett said. “The wrecks there on a day-to-day basis is crazy, and the tractor-trailer traffic on there is part of the problem.”

Page said he hasn’t lost focus on doing something about Route 58, noting the chokepoint around “Hamburger Alley” in Suffolk, near U.S. Route 13.

“We need to start thinking about how we diversify congestion relief, start looking at some of these other corridors as to how they contribute to the overall functionality of the system,” Page said, “but also in the connectivity of that, provide alternative congestion relief to corridors as to how we get in and out of our region.

“(Route) 460 is another issue that has come up, (and) as you know, has been one that was fraught with some environmental issues and others as to how those impacts may be, but Route 58 may not be involved as heavily in those types of challenges.”

Councilman Lue Ward asked about I-664 at Route 17 and congestion issues there. Page said that as HRTAC had been dealing with the Bowers Hill interchange, there was more congestion going up to College Drive that also needed to be addressed. Work at Bowers Hill, Page said, would take place after work at the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel is complete in 2025.

“We couldn’t functionally make the improvements at Bowers Hill interchange without making the improvements all the way up to College Drive,” Page said. “So that has just recently become a recommendation from the Bowers Hill Study Committee of the (Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization) to annex and include all the way up to College Drive as part of the Bowers Hill improvement.”