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

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

History

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 Roadsmarker 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-Tunnelmarker 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 Norfolkmarker. (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 Portsmouthmarker connecting with the Downtown Tunnelmarker was completed even as I-64 finally reached its eastern terminus at Bower's Hillmarker in Norfolk County (which became the City of Chesapeakemarker in 1963).

I-64, the portion of the Hampton Roads Beltway which was completed first, makes a huge long arc around the area, from Hampton through portions of Norfolk, Virginia Beachmarker, and Chesapeake and around Portsmouth to reach Bower's Hillmarker at the edge of the Great Dismal Swampmarker.

It was a number of years before the newer I-664 portion was built. The 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-Tunnelmarker and then pass through eastern Newport News to reconnect with I-64 in Hampton. This completed the loop in 1992.

In January, 1997, a -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-Tunnelmarker.

As of January 2007, recent studies and proposed legislation in the Virginia General Assemblymarker 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.

Major cities

The major cities included in the route of the Hampton Roads Beltway are sometimes known as the Seven Cities of Hampton Roadsmarker. 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, Virginiamarker
Surry County, Virginiamarker
Virginia Peninsula James City County, Virginiamarker
York County, Virginiamarker
Middle Peninsula Gloucester County, Virginiamarker
Mathews County, Virginiamarker
North Carolinamarker Currituck County, North Carolinamarker


Cities



Although Franklin, Virginiamarker 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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