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A group of regional leaders with purse-string power over major Hampton Roads transportation projects agreed Thursday to fund preliminary engineering costs for widening Interstate 64 from near Lee Hall to west of Water Country USA.
Funding is already in place and work is set to begin by Labor Day to widen I-64 to three lanes from west of Jefferson Avenue (Exit 255) to slightly east of Lee Hall (Exit 247), with work scheduled to be complete by December 2017.
That work represents phase one of an overall widening of I-64 to Lightfoot. The $6 million preliminary engineering work is one of many steps the Virginia Department of Transportation must undertake to complete phase two by July 2019.
Phase two runs from where phase one ends to 1.05 miles west of the Water Country USA interchange (Exit 242). It is estimated to cost $214 million and would add one 12-foot lane and one 12-foot shoulder for that length. Crews would also resurface the existing roadway as part of the project. Phase one is scheduled for completion in December 2017.
The project would also widen nine bridges and alter six culverts. The lanes would be added to the road’s median.
The vote was taken at Thursday’s meeting of the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission, which has power over the about $200 million per year generated for local road projects from 2013’s statewide transportation reform.
VDOT Hampton Roads Administrator Jim Utterback said the preliminary work will allow VDOT to continue to work toward the projected July 2019 completion. HRTAC will consider how to finance the project at a later meeting.
He also said VDOT is considering using the road’s shoulders as morning and afternoon peak travel lanes. A similar setup is used on Interstate 66 in Northern Virginia, where the shoulders open to commuters during the morning and evening commutes.
Several steps remain for phase two. The state’s Commonwealth Transportation Board must include it in its Six Year Improvement Program. VDOT anticipates the CTB will consider the addition in December. The Federal Highway Administration also needs to approve the project.
A public hearing has been scheduled for the project from 4 to 7 p.m. April 30 at the Double Tree Hotel in James City County. Members of the public can share their thoughts about the proposed 7.05-mile widening at that hearing.