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The Hampton Roads Beltway is a loop of Interstate 64 and Interstate 664, which links the communities of the Virginia Peninsula and South Hampton Roads which surround the body of water known as Hampton Roads and comprise much of the region of the same name in the southeastern portion of Virginia in the United States.

The Hampton Roads Beltway crosses the harbor of Hampton Roads at two locations on large four-laned bridge-tunnel facilities. The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel carries Interstate 64 (and U.S. Route 60) and the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel carries Interstate 664. The entire beltway and the bridge-tunnels are owned and operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Contents

History

I-64 on the Hampton Roads Beltway, north of I-264

Even before Interstate 64 was built beginning in 1958, from some of the earliest planning stages, there were hopes of a circumferential highway to Interstate highway standards for the Hampton Roads region. Some proposals envisioned state and local and/or toll funding if necessary to achieve that goal.

Indeed, the first two-laned portion of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was built with toll revenue bond funding in 1957 prior to the creation of I-64. It carried U.S. Route 60 and State Route 168 designations, and tied in with the new Tidewater Drive in Norfolk. (Tolls were removed when the other two lanes and tunnel were built adjacently to the immediate south of the older structure with federal Interstate Highway funding in the mid 1970s.)

Building of Interstate 64 was the first priority in the region, and a portion of Interstate 264 through Portsmouth connecting with the Downtown Tunnel was completed even as I-64 finally reached its eastern terminus at Bower's Hill in Norfolk County (which became the City of Chesapeake in 1963).

I-64, the portion of the Hampton Roads Beltway which was completed first, makes a huge 35-mile (56 km) long arc around the area, from Hampton through portions of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake and around Portsmouth to reach Bower's Hill at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp.

It was a number of years before the newer I-664 portion was built. The 21-mile (34 km) roadway connects with I-64 at Bower's Hill in Chesapeake and crosses through portions of Portsmouth and Suffolk to cross Hampton Roads via the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel and then pass through eastern Newport News to reconnect with I-64 in Hampton. This completed the loop in 1992.

In January, 1997, a 56-mile (90 km)-long I-64/I-664 loop was designated by the Virginia Department of Transportation (and signed) as the Hampton Roads Beltway.

Inner Loop, Outer Loop designations

The beltway has the clockwise direction (as looking down at a map of the area) signed as the Inner Loop, and the counter-clockwise direction signed as the Outer Loop. Essentially, I-64 forms the eastern portion and I-664 the western portion of the beltway.

Future

There are indications that a fourth highway crossing of Hampton Roads might be essential to avoid traffic gridlock in the near future. Already, miles-long backups are common on the approaches to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

As of January 2007, recent studies and proposed legislation in the Virginia General Assembly supported by many local members in both the State Senate and the House of Delegates may require that tolls on existing facilities (which are currently toll-free) be collected in the future to help pay for the enormous costs associated with a future so-called "third crossing" (in actually, the fourth) and other regional transportation needs.

Under legislation from the 2007 session, the General Assembly empowered the creation of a special authority as a political subdivision of the state, upon concurrence of seven of the 12 counties and cities within the designated area, the Hampton Roads Transportation Authority. HRTA was created in July, 2007, with powers to raise revenue through a variety of specific local taxes and user fees, such as tolls.

This Transportation Authority met strong resistance from voters and many in the General Assembly. By 2008, the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that the Transportation Authorities created by the Assembly (there was one created for Northern Virginia as well) were unconstitutional because Virginia's Constitution only permits the General Assembly to impose taxes. With that ruling, the Transporation Authorities were deemed moot and powerless, and legislation was passed in 2008 to de-establish them. They never imposed any taxes or collected any money for transportation.

Major cities

The major cities included in the route of the Hampton Roads Beltway are sometimes known as the Seven Cities of Hampton Roads. Alphabetically listed, these are:

The Hampton Roads region also includes two other smaller cities and seven counties, but none of these are located along the beltway. They are:

Counties
Area Name
South Hampton Roads Isle of Wight County, Virginia
Surry County, Virginia
Virginia Peninsula James City County, Virginia
York County, Virginia
Middle Peninsula Gloucester County, Virginia
Mathews County, Virginia
North Carolina Currituck County, North Carolina
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Cities

Although Franklin, Virginia is frequently identified locally as part of South Hampton Roads, it is not part of the federally designated metropolitan area.

See also

References

External links


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