As Hampton awaits federal approval to temporarily close two Interstate 64 eastbound ramps, Evie Wood made a plea for homeless vets.
Woods, a social worker with Hampton VA Medical Center, helps to get vets placed in shelters, most of which are easiest to get to using those ramps.
“Causing the additional delays in travel time from our medical center, which has easy access to 64 ... may result in many of our homeless veterans being unable to secure shelter options in a timely manner,” Woods said, asking the council to reconsider.
The Hampton resident was among a few who came to City Council last Wednesday to comment on a proposal to close I-64 eastbound access at the Mallory Street and Settlers Land Road exits from 3 to 6 p.m. daily. The ramps would be closed via a remote-controlled gate managed by the Virginia Department of Transportation and affect anyone heading east from Hampton. All westbound ramps would remain open.
The closures wouldn’t be permanent. They would only be during construction on the $3.8 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion and while other roadwork necessary to add express toll lanes in Hampton is happening. The HRBT expansion is expected to be completed in 2025.
The ramp closures are not a done deal, yet. The plan needs approval from the Federal Highway Administration and a council endorsement and would not be in effect until early next year. VDOT and Hampton would sign an agreement to outline details and shared costs, estimated at $500,000.
Closures would require motorists who need to travel toward Norfolk and points east to access I-64 at LaSalle Avenue or, farther west, on Mercury Boulevard. The plan drew mixed reactions.
Wood said that her program uses ride share companies to transport vets and there is a concern those companies may start canceling rides with additional travel times across the water, “as we have already started to see when traffic is backed up due to accident and breakdowns at the tunnel.”
Phoebus also is affected by the temporary ramp closures, either for better or worse, depending on who’s talking. Mallory Street bisects the neighborhood, a main road to several restaurants and businesses on Mellen Street.
Tim Receveur, a board member with the Partnership for a New Phoebus, said the business improvement district did a study and survey with 13,000 residents, with about 85% in favor.
Some who opposed it said they cannot get home with clogged streets, that closures will create more bottlenecks father west.
“It’s rather inconvenient when the 664 drops you off at the southside of Norfolk and I live up near the zoo,” said Scott Stratton, a Norfolk resident. “My option is either take 64 all the way around, which can increase my time home by about 45 minutes, or use the daily commute to the Midtown Tunnel which is going to incur more costs for my travel.”
For years, Hampton has wanted to control access to these two entrance ramps, known to those who pass through often as notorious choke points in a corridor consistently plagued by afternoon traffic jams.
The eastbound ramps are adjacent to the Hampton VA and Hampton University. During rush hour the interstate’s eastbound traffic is almost always bumper to bumper. Most days, traffic spills over onto Hampton’s major roads — including Mallory Street and Settlers Landing Road — from motorists seeking quicker routes to 64.
Mayor Donnie Tuck said the recommendation from VDOT was to close the ramp during both morning and afternoon peak hours.
“We only asked for 3 to 6. Some business are no longer in business because of the traffic,” Tuck said. “It impacts the quality of life for all Hampton residents. We cannot sit here idly and allow this problem to get worse.”
The city will host another public hearing at its Sept. 22 meeting.
Lisa Vernon Sparks, 757-247-4832, firstname.lastname@example.org