The important Downtown Tunnel linking Norfolk and Portsmouth in the US state of Virginia is celebrating its 70th anniversary. The link was the first underwater road tunnel built in Virginia and the 11th to be built in the US. When it opened to traffic it carried around 12,900 vehicles/day on average.
The original Downtown Tunnel currently handles traffic driving West along I-264 while the parallel tube that opened in 1987 handles traffic driving East on I-264. Traffic volumes have increased considerably since the first tunnel opened and the route now carries around 70,000 vehicles/day.
Elizabeth River Crossings operates and maintains the Downton Tunnel, while the link is owned by the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The 58-year concession package was awarded to Elizabeth River Crossings (a partnership between Skanska and the Macquarie Group) in 2014.
The opening of the original Downtown Tunnel replaced the ferry service across the Elizabeth River that had previously connected Norfolk and Portsmouth. The tunnel was constructed by the Elizabeth River Tunnel Commission. The Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel was opened to traffic five years after the first tunnel link.