New MLK Expressway now open

Construction crews work to put the finishing touches on the new MLK Expressway in Portsmouth on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. The expressway was expected to open later that evening. Credit: WAVY Photo/Rico Bush
Construction crews work to put the finishing touches on the new MLK Expressway in Portsmouth on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. The expressway was expected to open later that evening. Credit: WAVY Photo/Rico Bush

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — The new Martin Luther King Expressway opened up Wednesday evening.

Photos: Progress on the MLK Extension 

Construction began on the new MLK Expressway in November of 2013.

Portsmouth city staffers tour the new MLK Expressway ahead of Wednesday opening. (Photo: Elizabeth River Tunnels)
Portsmouth city staffers tour the new MLK Expressway ahead of Wednesday opening. (Photo: Elizabeth River Tunnels)

The new expressway extends the VA-164 Martin Luther King Freeway in Portsmouth from London Boulevard to Interstate 264, which gives drivers a direct route between the Downtown and Midtown tunnels.

“The new toll-free MLK Expressway offers enhanced connectivity options for improved regional mobility,” said Dan Norman, ERC Construction Director. “Motorists will now have a more direct connection between the U.S. 58 Midtown Tunnel and the I-264 Downtown Tunnel, providing additional travel options at key regional choke points.”

The new expressway will help drivers avoid congestion at regional choke points, including the I-64 Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel in Hampton and Norfolk, and the convergence of I-64, I-264, I-664 and U.S. 58 at the Bowers Hill interchange in Chesapeake.

New MLK Expressway opening soon

The MLK Expressway features nine new or reconfigured ramps including two at High Street, two at London Boulevard, one at Frederick Boulevard and four ramps at the new I-264 interchange.

Nearly 47,000 square feet of noise walls were built, along with other cosmetic treatments on the extension from London Boulevard to Turnpike Road.

The newly constructed pedestrian bridge over I-264 near Frederick Boulevard also features increased lighting and access.

Changeable message signs will also be installed near the entrance points to the expressway on I-264 and VA-164 to communicate traffic conditions to drivers in real-time and help them avoid congestion.