The I-264/I-64 interchange is the busiest interchange in Hampton Roads, with nearly 400,000 vehicles passing through every day. And although it is the second-busiest interchange in Virginia, it racked up the most recorded accidents in the commonwealth for 2017. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) says the number of crashes is proportional to the volume of traffic, but a report on WAVY.com makes it clear that road design is a major factor.
According to the Virginia State Police, traffic can back up one, two or two-and-a-half miles ahead of the interchange. Unfortunately, a hill on I-64 eastbound before the merge with I-264, which is so low that it’s barely noticeable to drivers, is high enough to hide the backed-up traffic from sight. Motorists thinking they’ve got open road ahead come over the hill to find a long line of stopped cars. Often, due to their speed, the drivers don’t have time to stop. The area is even more dangerous when inclement weather is a factor.
Comments from one state trooper for the WAVY story also suggest the road design may be too complex to be reasonably safe. According to Trooper Wesley Hagedorn, “There are very few shifts I work that there’s not a crash there.” And he added, “It’s a lot of crossing pieces and it takes a lot of awareness.”
Hagedorn’s advice to “slow down and pay attention” is certainly common sense, but more must be done. Ideally, the approach to the interchange would have been leveled at the time the freeway was constructed. Perhaps at that time, commonwealth officials did not believe such a step was worth the cost, because they could not have imagined today’s traffic volume and lengthy backups. But officials must now grapple with current reality: the interchange has become unreasonably unsafe for its users.
According to the WAVY story, the VDOT is working to improve this intersection by providing about “four miles of changes to the interstate.” But the story does not say what those changes will be. If Virginia wants to avoid liability for accidents on its most dangerous road, the changes it makes must have a positive and meaningful effect on safety.
Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban represents clients injured in auto accidents throughout Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. Our personal injury attorneys have more than 200 years of combined legal experience. Call us at (855) 435-7247 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.