VIRGINIA BEACH - You were one of the lucky ones if you weren't stuck in traffic on I-264 heading toward the Va. Beach Oceanfront Thursday night.
Around 7 p.m. on July 4th, Virginia Beach Police determined that parking at the oceanfront was at full capacity. As the fireworks started, large numbers of additional vehicles were still making their way to the oceanfront, and there was significant congestion along I-264 eastbound.
Around 8:45 p.m., Virginia Beach Police requested assistance from VDOT with blocking exit ramps at I-264 East at Birdneck Rd., I-264 East at Parks Ave., and the entrance ramp from First Colonial Rd. to I-264 West.
VDOT's message system alerted drivers of the closures with boards reading, "Resort Area Closed."
Around 9:00 p.m., VDOT posted messages from Va. Beach Police that several ramps would be blocked to help the flow of traffic following the Fourth of July events.
Drivers couldn't get off of I-264 East from Birdneck Road or any exit after, and I-264 West wasn't accessible from First Colonial Road.
That created a traffic jam that lasted well past midnight.
According to Brooke Grow with VDOT, westbound lanes of I-264 were reopened at 12:09 a.m., and eastbound lanes re-opened at 12:50 a.m.
People posted about the problems on the WVEC13 Facebook page.
Ashley Barbeau wrote, "It took us 2 hours just to get to 264 and then another 1 hr 1/2 to get home. We live 50 mins away anyways but the traffic was crazy. I've never seen it so backed up like that before."
Jennifer Rapp Goyet added, "It's never been like that before. Last year, it took me 25 minutes to drive the 12 miles to my home after the fireworks - this year, it took 65 minutes!"
Jill Copley Killam posted, "It took us 2 hours to go 1 mile. The sad thing is..we didn't even go see fireworks."
At midnight, the I-264 West ramp to First Colonial reopened, but the ramps on I-264 East at Birdneck Road and Parks Avenue were closed. Then just before 1:00 a.m., all lanes and ramps on I_264 East reopened to the Oceanfront.
Va. Beach police released this information Friday afternoon about the traffic plan for the July 4.
Based on our previous Independence Day crowd experiences, the holiday traffic plan was set in place that included contingency plans to address overcrowding. This plan was implemented at approximately 8:45 p.m. as the Oceanfront fireworks show was commencing. By use of the department’s helicopter, cameras communication with business owners, it was determined that parking at the oceanfront was at full capacity. Public notification was requested via VDOT message boards advising of such. At the onset of the fireworks demonstration, a large numbers of additional vehicles were still attempting to access the Oceanfront, and eastbound I264 traffic was experiencing significant traffic congestion. The determination to re-route the eastbound I264 traffic onto westbound I264 at Parks Avenue was made with the public’s safety in mind, and was orchestrated with the assistance of Virginia State Police. This decision was based on the combined factors of substantial inbound Oceanfront traffic, the number of people (all oceanfront hotels were at or near full capacity), vehicles currently at the Oceanfront, and the anticipated exodus of the crowds upon the completion of the fireworks display. Similar traffic management strategies have been used in the past when Oceanfront crowds reach capacity levels.