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What’s taking so long with the construction on Suffolk’s Route 58? WHRO asked.

Construction progress on Route 58 in Suffolk as of Sept. 2023. Officials say the project should wrap late this year. (Courtesy of the City of Suffolk)
Construction progress on Route 58 in Suffolk as of Sept. 2023. Officials say the project should wrap late this year. (Courtesy of the City of Suffolk)

A reader sent us this about the construction on U.S. Route 58 west of Suffolk’s downtown, also known as Holland Road: 

“Can someone please find out how much longer it is going to take? They've been working on this for at least 3 years now!”

So we asked. Here’s what we learned:

What is the project?

Route 58 is being widened for a little more than 3 miles, from the Route 58 Bypass near Suffolk’s downtown to Centerpoint Intermodal Park, where trucks pick up and drop shipments coming in and out of Hampton Roads.

An extra travel lane is being added to both sides, making it three lanes in each direction. A ten-foot wide multi-use trail will be on one side of the highway and a five-foot wide sidewalk will be on the other.

The project also includes new streetlights, traffic signals and updated drainage infrastructure, doing away with existing ditches in favor of a closed stormwater system.

Are you curious about the status of a road project near you? We want to hear about it. Send us an email to news@whro.org.

Why build it?

“(Route) 58 is probably one of the most, if not the most, important corridor going in and out of the Hampton Roads region,” said Robert Lewis, Suffolk’s public works director.

“There's been a lot of growth of traffic on that corridor and the need for an additional lane of traffic in each direction to support those volumes has been growing for a number of years.”

The busiest part of that stretch saw 34,000 vehicles per day in 2022,  up 13% from a decade before, according to state traffic counts.

Lewis said drive-time congestion has become a problem along Holland Road and things get pretty hairy in certain circumstances — like if an accident elsewhere causes more drivers to divert onto Route 58.

“Anytime there was some incident that created an issue somewhere else and traffic volumes increased again, that road could not handle this volume of traffic that was going through it,” he said.

Lewis also noted Route 58 and nearby Route 460 carry more trucks in and out of Hampton Roads than any other highway, a big deal for a region that’s seen explosive growth in its port and related shipping industries in the last couple years.

More than 15% of all the vehicles driving this stretch of Holland Road in 2022 were tractor-trailers.

So what’s taking so long?

Lewis said yes, construction’s been going on since May 2021. 

But that’s because they wanted to keep the road open while crews work, he said. 

“We could have probably actually gone out there and built this project in about a year to year and a half if we'd just closed the road completely down and told everybody else to go find somewhere else to ride,” he said. 

“Unfortunately, we can't do things like that.”

The need to keep the road open meant juggling a phased construction project while managing the cars still using Route 58, building temporary lanes and shifting traffic patterns while crews worked on different sections.

The expectation was always about a three-and-a-half year construction window, Lewis said. Now, they’re into the final phase and Lewis said they’re set to finish on schedule - and on budget - this December.

Ryan is WHRO’s business and growth reporter. He joined the newsroom in 2021 after eight years at local newspapers, the Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot. Ryan is a Chesapeake native and still tries to hold his breath every time he drives through the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

The world changes fast.

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