Changes made to Downtown Tunnel west closures

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by 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on October 25, 2013 at 5:21 PM

10/23 UPDATE: VDOT will not shut down the westbound tube all weekend; moving work to overnight closures on weekdays and weekend nights.

The westbound tunnel will close at 8:00 p.m. and reopen by 5:00 a.m. on weekdays. On Fridays and Saturdays, it will close at 8:00 p.m. and reopen at 8:00 a.m. the following morning.

VDOT Deputy Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick said the change is being delayed for another week to give drivers time to understand the new plan.

"It's not the most efficient plan," said Kilpatrick, "But it's a lot more balanced. It was important to make sure businesses weren't suffering during these closures."

Portsmouth business owner and anti-tolls advocate Charles Greenhood says he's glad VDOT is considering changes.  "But this isn't ideal.  There are still plenty of bars and restaurants that rely on businesses after 8 p.m." Greenhood said. 

The new plan includes approximately 125 overnight closures compared to the 42 full-day weekend closures originally scheduled.

Kilpatrick said the new plan could cost an additional $2 to $4 million more than the previous plan.

The I-264 Westbound Downtown Tunnel will be closed the following times:

Oct. 25 – Oct. 28: 
8 p.m. Friday to 8 a.m. Saturday
8 p.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Sunday
8 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday

Oct. 28 – Nov. 1:
The tunnel will be open, but there will be scheduled single lane closures Monday through Thursday nights.  The project team will use this time to notify motorists and the community of the changed schedule.

Remainder of the year:
Tunnel will close during the weeknights 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and weekend nights 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. 

Work for this year is expected to wrap up in December and will resume later in January with nightly closures.

Traffic will be detoured to the I-64 High Rise Bridge.  Expect delays of up to 30 minutes.  Other alternate routes include the Route 58 Midtown Tunnel and the tolled South Norfolk Jordan Bridge.

PORTSMOUTH-The Downtown Tunnel westbound will be open this weekend after all.

On Thursday morning, Elizabeth River Tunnels and the Virginia Department of Transportation canceled the closure, which was set to begin Friday night and reopen by 5:00 a.m. Monday. Officials say the move comes they "review and study weekend closure impacts and alternate options."

Portsmouth leaders and businesses complained the the shutdown is hurting them and they want something done - specifically allowing two-way traffic in the eastbound tunnel.

ERC said it had considered that option but decided against it for many reasons, including safety, specifically that drivers wouldn't be familiar with bi-directional travel in the tube and it would significantly slow response to crashes or other problems inside the two-lane structure.

ERC is rehabbing the Downtown Tunnel and planned to close the westbound tube for 25 weekends from August 2013 to May 2014. Then the eastbound tunnel would begin a series of 42 closures. The Midtown Tunnel is 61 years old and the rehab work is meant to extend the life and increase safety of span over the Elizabeth River, officials said.

So far, in the first two months of rehab, ERC says it's been installing fireproofing board (Promat) on the tunnel ceiling, rerouting electrical lines for installation of new lighting and ventilation jet fans, relocating the conduit on the tunnel ceiling, installing temporary power for tunnel lighting and tunnel cameras and more.

The cancellation was welcome news to people talking about it on the WVEC13 Facebook page. Deidre Hagen said, "Awesome living in downtown Portsmouth it's a pain to try and find a different route home on the weekends. "

Bonnie Lex added, "The one weekend that I actually have to go to Portsmouth. Thanks VDOT!"

The Midtown Tunnel is 61 years old and the rehab work is meant to extend the life and increase safety of span over the Elizabeth River, officials said.

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