HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) - The Virginia Department of Transportation says it will not be closing multiple bridges at the same time after a traffic nightmare over the weekend.
Chief Deputy Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick with VDOT apologized to the public via a media phone conference Monday afternoon. This upcoming weekend's bridge work in Hampton Roads has been suspended as crews develop a plan to lessen the delays.
"We apologize to the traveling public. We underestimated the impact of multiple closures on the same weekend, and we underestimated that ... we are going to temporarily suspend the work on the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the James River Bridge until can develop a better plan to do the maintenance work," Kilpatrick said.
VDOT says it will not close multiple bridges in the future.
Motorists were trapped for hours over the weekend as they attempted to travel through the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel from the Peninsula to the Southside. VDOT closed the eastbound lanes of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel as well as the James River Bridge to make scheduled repairs.
According to Kilpatrick, VDOT underestimated the impact the closings would have. Kilpatrick also said the advisories should have been stronger, telling motorists to not drive if they didn't have to.
VDOT also noted motorists outside of the warning area did not know about the closures.
Kilpatrick said in the phone conference how difficult it was to work in the tunnel and how workers couldn't just stop the work once they realized there was an issue. Kilpatrick also expressed understanding of how connected Hampton Roads is across the water.
As a result of the traffic, motorists became frustrated and took to social media to vent their anger toward VDOT because of the decision to close two bridges at once.
Governor Bob McDonnell also expressed the closings as "unacceptable" by releasing the following statement to WAVY.com:
"This past weekend's traffic issues in the Hampton Roads area were unacceptable. I lived in Virginia Beach for 21 years and raised my family there. I know how difficult it can be to move around the area, and the impact that construction and accidents can have on motorists. That is why I was disappointed to learn that both the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and the James River Bridge were closed simultaneously, causing long delays. I have asked VDOT to conduct a full review of this past weekend's issues to ensure that this does not happen again. We are making progress in addressing Virginia's transportation challenges. Our historic new funding for roads and bridges in the Commonwealth does bring with it more construction, which will help us reduce congestion and delays in the years ahead. However, that construction must be planned and executed wisely, in a manner that has the least possible impact on the motorists who depend upon our roads to get to work, home and school."
Kilpatrick said VDOT admits mistakes were made and owns up to them.
"We made mistakes last weekend," Kilpatrick said. "We are going to own up to [our mistakes] and we are going to take steps towards better planning. We will put out better information and we will limit these closures in the future so it doesn't happen again."
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