Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Musings on the Third Crossing

The issue of the Third Crossing spanning Hampton Roads arose in Gov.-elect Tim Kaine's latest "town hall" meeting, on the Virginia Peninsula. According to press reports, a couple of speakers bucked the conventional wisdom and questioned whether a third crossing from Norfolk to Newport News would be the most efficient expenditure of funds.

Here's a question I have about the Third Crossing: It would relieve bottlenecks at the two existing bridge-tunnels, but wouldn't it just create a new bottleneck on Interstate 64?

The need for a Third Crossing is most commonly justified on the following grounds: (1) Increasing truck traffic generated by the expanding ports; (2) An evacuation path in the event of a hurricane or some other disaster; and (3) congestion associated with summertime beach tourists. So, let's say we spend the $3 billion-plus dollars to build the crossing and run a bridge from the vicinity of the Norfolk International Terminals all the way to the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel where it touches land at Newport News. Let's say that trucks, tourists, evacuees find themselves mercifully free of congestion on the bridge-tunnels. Then what?

Then they hit I-64 in Newport News. In my experience, the most predictable congestion (if not necessarily the worse) is where I-64 narrows from four lanes to three and from three lanes to two. It doesn't matter how many bridges you build across Hampton Roads, you still have to squeeze four lanes of traffic into two on I-64! From what I can tell, all the $3 billion buys you is a displacement of congestion from the bridge-tunnels to a point 10 or so miles to the northwest.

Hampton Roads needs to address system-wide congestion, not just spot congestion. And that would require adding a third lane to I-64 all the way to Richmond, would it not? If I'm missing something, please point it out to me.


At 9:17 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

The congestion is where the road narrows from four to three and three to two. Try to remember that the next time you claim we can't pave our way out of congestion.

You need to fix the bridge AND I-64.

That"s why we need another $2 billion per year.

And I-66, and 28, etc etc etc.

At 8:28 AM, Blogger Steve Haner said...

I've recently been on i-64 in Hampton Roads several times at peak hours (if not at the exact peaks) and it was my experience that the problems were the places where you lost a lane, which of course includes the approach to the tunnel from Hampton. Widening I-64 all the way to I-295 is the first and probably best fix. The Third Crossing is looking more at the future problems coming from the ports.

The experience was worse than Richmond but paled in comparison to Northern Virginia.

The thing that always amazes me about Hampton Roads is those charts showing the number of people who work on one side of the river and live on the other, requiring two or more trips a day across major water.

At 2:04 PM, Blogger sstiles said...

The "third crossing" only works to cross the water if you add tubes to the Monitor-Merrimac. Of course, then you have the jam at I-64 as noted.

Much of the interest in the "third crossing" is to service the proposed Craney Island Terminal and the Maersk Terminal being built now. Trucks from Norfolk International Terminal would come across the Third Crossing and, about one-third of the way across, head south on an off ramp above the water that would serve the new Terminals. There are two PPTA proposals working, based upon tolls on the trucks, I believe.

This shifts the trucks off of Hampton Blvd. near my house and loosens up some of the pressure on the Midtown Tunnel which is only two lanes wide - most of the trucks going from Norfolk to Portsmouth use this route.

So there is some congestion relief, but not on I-64.

It would have more congestion relief if, as planned, there is a rail tube built into it and the rail crosses the water to the Penninsula as well. Then some of the container-truck traffic would shift to rail, offering greater relief.


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