May 22, 2019 - Phoebus and downtown residents and business owners can tell when the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel is backed up because cars hop off the interstate and clog local roads. Interim Public Works Director Jason Mitchell told City Council on Wednesday that he has been working to find ways to alleviate some of the gridlock.
Some ideas are fairly easy to enact, said City Manager Mary Bunting; others may take more time. City staff will begin by limiting left (or right, depending on the direction) turns on neighborhood streets connecting to Mallory during afternoon rush hour.
The next step is to mark key intersections on Mallory and Mellen streets, as well as downtown, and put up "Don't Block the Box" signs to remind people not to block intersections. That has already been done in front of the Phoebus fire station to remind drivers not to block in fire and rescue vehicles. Blocking the intersection can carry a fine of $250.
The speed limit on Mercury Boulevard will be reduced to 35 beginning at the entrance of Phoebus, near Old Buckroe Road.
The city has asked the Virginia Department of Transportation to consider the possibility of closing the Phoebus entrance to I-64 eastbound during heavy backups. That would be similar to the closure in Ocean View for the westbound ramp, which is done to limit traffic on neighborhood streets. That study is expected to take about six months.
The traffic diversion onto neighborhood and other small streets has increased due to direction apps that can reroute drivers. The city will look at ways to share traffic data with those sources, but residents can also use those apps to report backups on neighborhood streets that could let drivers know that detouring won't be faster.
Mitchell's report followed an update on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion by VDOT. While that project is moving forward and expected to provide relief from the bridge-tunnel backups, it won't be finished until 2025.