PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) - The Downtown Tunnel will be closed for dozens of weekends over the next two years.
The closings are part of a $119 million rehabilitation project that will give the tunnel a facelift beginning Aug. 9. But many locals and business owners are not happy with the plan.
"It's going to have a long-term impact," said Portsmouth's Bill Schlaht, owner of Anderson-Wright on High Street that specializes in unique outdoor items.
For the last year, you couldn't go into any business on High Street in Portsmouth without hearing the word "toll." Now add "closure" to the list.
"It's never ending," Schlaht added.
Schlaht opened Anderson-Wright 17 years ago and says most of his customers come from Virginia Beach.
"I run it six days a week by myself. I haven't had a vacation in four years," said Schlant. "A lot of times [customers] come on the weekend, mainly because they want to avoid the tunnel traffic."
Schlaht worries over the next two years customers won't come on the weekends because they won't want to deal with constant closures at the Downtown Tunnel.
"It's going to be very frustrating for them," Schlaht said. "It's just going to be one more reason for them not come to Portsmouth."
Elizabeth River Crossings says both tubes of the tunnel are about to get some much needed maintenance improvements that will cause the closures.
"It's extremely important for the preservation of the facility," said Leila Rice with ERC. "It is a 61-year-old tunnel. We have to keep it safe for motorists to use on a daily basis."
Aug. 9 work will begin first on the westbound tube. There will be 25 weekend closures over the next year. The work will then move to the eastbound side, causing another 40 weekends of tunnel shutdowns. Schlaht wonders if there's a different solution.
"They might even consider one tube going both directions," Schlaht added. "At least when people arrive at the Downtown Tunnel they're not going to be met with a closure."
"When you have weekend work that's a difficult thing to deal with," Rice said about Schlaht's suggestion. "Five days out of the week people will use two lanes in one direction and that would create a higher risk. It's a safety issue."
ERC has set up several alternate routes to aid drivers during the closings. For a list of those and to find out when the work will happen, click here .
Suffolk police are looking for a man and a woman they say robbed a Kangaroo Express gas station on Wilroy Road Sunday afternoon.
Wounded warriors joined children with developmental disabilities in the pool at Virginia Wesleyan College Sunday.
Local survivors of the attack on Pearl Harbor gathered at Little Creek for a ceremony on the 72nd anniversary.
Virginia Beach fire officials say a parade float burst into flames at the Oceanfront Saturday night.
Virginia State Police say a Chesapeake teenager died in a crash in Franklin County Saturday morning.
Norfolk Police are investigating the cause of death for male found unconscious on the beach.
The art of making jewelry is helping some Norfolk students learn independence and job skills.