About the Project

The Elizabeth River Tunnels Project has been a top priority for the Hampton Roads region for many years. The project comprises the development, design, construction, finance and operation of a new two-lane tunnel parallel to the existing Midtown Tunnel under the Elizabeth River, maintenance and safety improvements to the existing Midtown and Downtown tunnels, extending the MLK from London Boulevard to Interstate 264, and interchange modifications at Brambleton Avenue and Hampton Boulevard. The project is located between the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk in Hampton Roads. Under a comprehensive agreement VDOT will maintain ownership of the infrastructure and oversee ERC‘s activities, ERC will finance, and build the facilities, then operate and maintain them for a 58-year concession period.

Elizabeth River Tunnels Project Map

Elizabeth River Tunnels Project Map

Download a detailed project map (PDF .8Mb)

Why Is the Project Needed?

The existing Midtown Tunnel is a 50-year-old facility carrying a million vehicles a month. It is the most heavily traveled two lane road east of the Mississippi and a vital link between Norfolk and Portsmouth. Since the tunnel was built, population has increased nearly 70 percent and tunnel usage has gone up by 600 percent. Additional capacity is greatly needed.

A second tunnel in addition to the MLK extension and other improvements are critical for motorists, the region’s economy, the efficient movement of goods and services and the quality of life.

What are the project’s major benefits?

The Elizabeth River Tunnels Project will offer broad and lasting benefits to the Hampton Roads transportation system, its economy and the lives of those who live and work in the region every day. Here are just a few of the benefits offered by the project:

  • When the project opens,the average round trip user will save about 30 minutes a day, saving fuel and reducing gas emissions.
  • Roadway safety will improve with the elimination of bi-directional traffic in the existing Midtown Tunnel.
  • Through increased funding as part of the project agreement, Hampton Roads Transit will improve route frequency between Norfolk and Portsmouth. This enhancement could spur public transportation use, offering a low cost alternative to driving alone.
  • The project offers regional economic development benefits at estimates of $170 to $254 million.
  • More than $1 billion of construction works will be built by local companies. More than 500 direct jobs and more than 1,000 indirect jobs will be created through local suppliers and vendors.
  • Increased travel options will provide greater accessibility to jobs, educational facilities, medical services, shopping and recreational activities.
  • The improvements will provide a critical link to the various port facilities in the region, supporting the movement of goods in and out of these facilities.