How fitting is the moniker Hampton Roads? Sure, that's the official name of the water that the region is built around, but it's also a hint about the traffic you'll face around here. Anyone who has lived in Hampton Roads for a couple of months will have some shortcut tips for you. Local lifers can probably bend your ear for hours about when not to drive where. Here's a basic lay of the land and some tips to save you time.
1. Interstate 64 is the Peninsula's main traffic vein and sections clog up quickly. With traffic soaring speedily over Mercury Boulevard (if you're new to the area, you missed the snarled traffic that construction project caused), the biggest backups are usually at the northern and southern tips of the Peninsula. Drivers headed to Williamsburg and beyond expect to slow down as the interstate trims to two-lanes each way.
2. TheHampton Roads Bridge-Tunnelcan be a nightmare at any time of the day or night. Morning rush hour can be a mess, and try to avoid the HRBT as summer weekends approach because you'll be surrounded by the beach bound - sometimes starting as early as Thursday night.
3. The Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel used to be the region's best-kept secret. The connection can add up to seven miles for drivers going from the Peninsula to South Hampton Roads, but it's usually smoother than the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. The alternative isn't traffic free - afternoon drivers need to watch out for the 3:30 p.m. shift change at the Newport News shipyard - but it's usually the lesser of two evils.
4. Warwick Boulevard is the backbone of Newport News from Fort Eustis to downtown. In addition to dealing with students crossing the street in front of Christopher Newport University, the shipyard shift change tends to increase congestion too.
5. Jefferson Avenue runs parallel to Warwick and is lined with shops and stores of all types. That means weekends are a crowded time on Jefferson especially on the north end around the Patrick Henry Mall.
6. The James River Bridge connects the Peninsula and Isle of Wight County. The 4.5-mile span is narrow so check your gas gauge and watch out for broken down cars. The span is raised for passing ships so check the schedule or be ready to stop and wait.
7. The Coleman Bridge connects York and Gloucester counties. Northbound drivers must pay $2 to cross the bridge. If you're crossing consistently you probably want the E-Z Pass so you can drive right through the tolls and get a discount. Pass holders pay 85 cents.
8. Route 17 / J. Clyde Morris Boulevard / George Washington Memorial Highway is a rambling stretch of road that is littered generously with stoplights. It's the commercial and commuter link from Newport News to Isle of Wight County and York County to Gloucester County. It's city driving from start to finish, so it's always a good idea to have some side shortcuts ready.
9. Route 460 runs through some one-traffic-light towns and plays host to a lot of big rigs. But the route is a nice alternative to Interstate 64 if you're headed for Richmond and beyond, or if you're trying to bypass the bridge-tunnels while heading south.
MASS TRANSIT OPTIONS
Hampton Roads Transit is the regional bus service. 222-6100. http://www.hrtransit.org. Peninsula fares are $1.50.
The Tide is a light rail system scheduled to open this year. It extends 7.4 miles from the Eastern Virginia Medical Center east through downtown Norfolk, adjacent to I-264 to Newtown Road. http://www.ridethetide.com.
The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry connects James City and Surry counties. Even if you don't want to use it as a commuting tool, it makes for a nice weekend ride on the water. Free. 800-823-3779.
Amtrak Stations are located in Newport News at 9304 Warwick Blvd. and in Williamsburg at 468 N. Boundary St. 800-872-7245. http://www.amtrak.com.
Greyhound Bus Terminals (www.greyhound.com)
2 W. Pembroke Ave. 722-9861
14407 Warwick Blvd. 872-4405
701 Monticello Ave. 625-7500
1139 Carolina Road 539-6937
468 N. Boundary St. 229-1460
*Tickets are not sold at this location.
http://www.ezpass.com - Visit this site to sign up and drive right through toll booths throughout the state.
511 - A toll-free call to this number will get you information on road conditions.
Want to know more? visit us at dailypress.com/living here