Officials break ground on I-64 Southside widening, High Rise project

This Jan. 12, 2018 photo shows Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaking at the grounbreaking of a project to widen Interstate 64 around the High Rise Bridge in Chesapeake. (Credit: WAVY/Chris Omahen).

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A traffic headache on Interstate 64 around the High Rise Bridge is about to get a lot better for drivers in Hampton Roads.

This Jan. 12, 2018 photo shows Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe speaking at the grounbreaking of a project to widen Interstate 64 around the High Rise Bridge in Chesapeake. (Credit: WAVY/Chris Omahen).

Officials broke ground on the first phase of a major project to widen I-64 on the Southside and build a new High Rise Bridge.

The multi-million dollar project from the Virginia Department of Transportation calls for I-64 to be widened from four to six lanes — and add one express lane in each direction.

The new bridge will be used to carry three lanes of I-64 West traffic over the Elizabeth River. Once that is completed, officials say the current bridge will carry three lanes of I-64 traffic going eastbound.

McAuliffe says he’s proud that this accomplishment is part of a larger regional $1 billion transportation project for the entire region.

“It’s a game changer for the region.”

The governor says the construction of a new High Rise span, adding an extra lane in both directions from Bowers Hill to the interchange with 4-64 along with the widening of 64 on the peninsula will help our area attract new business.

“Before, you couldn’t bring big businesses in. If it’s going to take an hour for you go see your kids ball game, or it takes you a long time to get to work, they are going to go to another area where they don’t have the traffic congestion.”

And the 90 thousand drivers who use the high rise every day will be able to get to the oceanfront, the port and military bases a lot more easily.

“This region should be booming,” McAuliffe said. “I’ve always said it should be the best in the world, and what was hindering it was transportation.”

The new span will be higher than the existing one, with a clearance from the surface of the Elizabeth River of 100 feet. When phase two of the project is eventually designed and built, it will replace the original span with a second taller span, and High Rise Bridge lifts will no longer be necessary.

The timetable calls for completion of phase one in the Summer of 2021.

Get ready for tolls if you want the quickest commute, because the High Rise corridor will have one HOT lane in each direction when it is finished. The contractor on the project says we should start seeing work being done by June.

Related: Contract awarded for additional I-64 High Rise Bridge

State officials say once this is done the next focus will be expanding the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel.

A groundbreaking ceremony Friday morning featured remarks from Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne.