Virginia Road Network

By | October 13, 2022

The Springfield Interchange (I-95, I-395, I-495).

Virginia has a fairly extensive road network due to its relatively high population density. Several highways crisscross the state, with the Washington, DC region in particular being a major hub, followed by Richmond. The US Highways sub-road network is well developed, especially in the eastern half of the state, with 2×2 lanes with at-grade intersections over long distances. There are regular bypasses around towns that have been developed as highways. Major underlying routes are the US 17, US 29, US 58, US 360 and US 460. These roads have been largely or completely extended with 2×2 lanes and a central reservation, and are actually at the level crossings after a freeway. They often also have emergency lanes. They are mainly located in areas where there are no Interstate Highways, such as between Norfolk and Petersburg/Emporia, between Roanoke and Richmond, between Danville and Washington and several other connections. In the Appalachian Mountains, which encompass the west of the state, there are fewer 2×2 main roads, but the major routes are nevertheless well developed.

  • Bittranslators: State overview of Virginia, including geography, economy, population and history as well as introduction to major cities of Virginia.

Road management

The road authority in the state is the Virginia Department of Transportation, abbreviated VDOT. VDOT operates a gigantic network of roads, totaling 93,108 kilometers of road in the state administration, the third largest network of all states. There are no county roads in the state, these are managed by VDOT as secondary routes. VDOT also manages more than 12,600 bridges, including many large and/or long bridges, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay area. There are also several tunnels managed by VDOT, especially in the Hampton Roads region. The toll roads in Virginia are also under the control of VDOT.

VDOT has its origins in the State Highway Commission which was established in 1906. This merged into the larger Department of Highways in 1927. Like many states, the 1970s saw a greater emphasis on public transportation. In 1974, therefore, the name was changed to the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation, with railroads and public transportation becoming a task. In 1986 this was renamed to the Virginia Department of Transportation.

  • Deluxesurveillance: Nickname of Virginia as The Old Dominion. Also covers geography, history, economy, politics and administration of the state.

Interstate Highways

Virginia’s Interstate Highway Network.

Several Interstate Highways cross the state of Virginia. Interstate 64 is the main east-west route and runs from West Virginia through Richmond to the Hampton Roads region. This is the main road to the coast of Virginia. Interstate 66 is a relatively short east-west connection in the north of the state, connecting Strasburg with Washington, DC. Interstate 77 runs north-south through the far west of the state. Both I-64 and I-77 are dual-numbered with Interstate 81, a critical truck corridor through the western part of the state. Although I-81 does not serve the largest cities in Virginia, it is an important through connection between the south and northeast of the United States. I-81 is notorious for its large amount of freight traffic. Interstate 85 comes from North Carolina and ends in Petersburg. Interstate 95 forms a north-south route through the east of the state, via Richmond to Washington, D.C. This is one of the busiest highways in the country.

In addition, there are various auxiliary routes. Interstate 195 is a short connection in downtown Richmond, while Interstate 264 is a commuter route between Norfolk and Virginia Beach. Interstate 295 bypasses both Petersburg and Richmond. Interstate 381 forms a short spur in the southern city of Bristol, while Interstate 581 opens up the city of Roanoke.

Interstate 395 is the main approach into downtown Washington from the south and passes directly past the Pentagon. Interstate 464 is a short urban highway between Norfolk and Chesapeake, while Interstate 564 forms a spur to the Norfolk Naval Base. Interstate 664 forms the western portion of the beltway around the Hampton Roads region. Interstate 495 forms part of the Washington Beltway in Virginia and is the state’s busiest highway. Much of I-495 has 12 lanes, including express lanes.

US Highways

A large number of US Highways traverse Virginia. Relatively many US Highways are designed as a 2×2 divided highway, or partly as freeway. Major 2×2 lane corridors include US 1, which runs parallel to I-85 and I-95, US 13 through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and across the Delmarva Peninsula, US 17 through the Hampton Roads region and on to Winchester in the north of the state and US 29 as a north-south route through the center of the state. Several parts of US 29 are freeway, especially around the larger towns.

US 19 and US 23 have 2×2 lanes through western Virginia in the Appalachian Mountains. US 58 forms a long east-west route through the south of the state and is constructed as a 2×2 divided highway or freeway for considerable parts. US 360 and US 460 also have 2×2 lanes for large parts. US 301 is part of a regional bypass along the east side of Washington, DC. The fewest stretches of 2×2 lanes are found in the Appalachian Mountains north of Roanoke and the more sparsely populated area northwest of Richmond.

State Routes

The Jordan Bridge (SR-337) in Portsmouth/Norfolk.

Virginia has a huge network of state routes, almost all paved roads outside built-up areas are under state management. The primary highways consist of US Highways and state routes and form a large part of the secondary road network, although many state routes have 2×2 lanes and are occasionally freeway. The primary highways are numbered between 1 and 599. The majority of the road network under state management consists of secondary highways. These have a road number greater than 600 and are numbered by county. These are numbered with three or four digits, but not all of these routes are signposted. Frontage roads are also administratively numbered with the prefix ‘F’. The frontage roads are numbered statewide, the state manages 536 kilometers of frontage road.

The network of state routes is divided as follows;

  • Interstate Highways: 1,799 kilometers
  • Primary highways: 13,051 kilometers (US Highways and major state routes)
  • Secondary Highways: 77,723 kilometers
  • Frontage roads: 536 kilometers

State routes that have been developed as freeways;

  • SR-7: Alexandria – Winchester (parts)
  • SR-27: around the Pentagon
  • SR-28: Centerville – Sterling (suburban Washington)
  • SR-37: around Winchester
  • SR-76: Powhite Parkway in Richmond
  • SR-110: in Arlington
  • SR-150: Chippenham Parkway through Richmond
  • SR-164: Western Freeway at Portsmouth and Suffolk (Hampton Roads)
  • SR-168: Chesapeake-North Carolina (Hampton Roads)
  • SR-195: Downtown Expressway at Richmond
  • SR-199: around Williamsburg
  • SR-267: Dulles Airport – Falls Church, Washington Suburban
  • SR-286: Fairfax County Parkway (suburban Washington)
  • SR-288: Richmond Bypass
  • SR-895: Pocahontas Parkway at Richmond

Bridges & Tunnels

Virginia has many major bridges and tunnels over and under the estuaries surrounding the Chesapeake Bay.

Bridges and Tunnels in Virginia
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel • Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel • James River Bridge • Jordan Bridge • Downtown Tunnel • Midtown Tunnel • Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel • Nice Bridge • Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge

Toll roads

The express lanes of Interstate 495.

Virginia has a large number of toll roads, in addition to toll bridges and tunnels, also various regular toll roads and toll lanes ( express lanes ).

Northern Virginia

  • I-95 Express Lanes
  • I-495 Express Lanes
  • Dulles Toll Road / Dulles Greenway (SR-267)
  • Nice Bridge (US 301)

Richmond

  • Powhite Parkway (SR-76)
  • Boulevard Bridge (SR-161)
  • Downtown Expressway (SR-195)
  • Pocahontas Parkway (SR-895)

Hampton Roads

  • Downtown Tunnel (I-264)
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (US 13)
  • George P Coleman Memorial Bridge (US 17)
  • Midtown Tunnel (US 58)
  • Chesapeake Expressway (SR-168)
  • Jordan Bridge (SR-337)

History

The history of Virginia’s highway network begins with the construction of classic turnpikes, primarily in the first half of the 19th century. Between 1800 and 1850, turnpikes were built for wagons throughout Virginia. It was the primary mode of land transportation until the rise of the railways in the mid-19th century. They are mostly the predecessors of today’s US Highways.

The roads were originally a task of the counties and cities. The road network was little developed by 1900, but the advent of the automobile made it necessary to direct the development of the road network in Virginia. The State Highway Commission was established for this purpose in 1906. From 1910 the first registration of vehicles was introduced and from 1916 the vehicle registration was a target tax to develop the road network. In 1918, the first network of state highways was created, covering 6,400 kilometers of road. In 1923 a fuel tax was introduced to pay for the road network. The importance of the road network increased sharply after the First World War, so that in 1927 the Department of Highways was established.

As part of the measures taken against the economic depression of the 1930s, the Byrd Road Act was passed in 1932, taking over 50,000 kilometers of road from the counties. At the time, the counties had the choice to keep road management themselves or to transfer it to the state. Initially, only four counties chose to take control of road management, later only Arlington and Henrico County remained. All other counties had transferred road management to the state of Virginia.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, opened in 1964.

The first major road projects were carried out in the 1920s and 1930s, mostly bridges. In 1932, the George Washington Memorial Parkway opened along the Potomac River across from Washington, D.C. This was the first high-quality road in Virginia. In 1928, the first James River Bridge opened at Newport News, a 7 km long bridge, and at the time it was the longest bridge over water in the world. In 1940, the Nice Bridge, the most downstream bridge over the Potomac River, opened, helping to better integrate the adjacent parts of Virginia and Maryland.

Virginia’s first proper highway was the so-called “Shirley Highway,” which would later be numbered Interstate 395. This was a 17-mile freeway between Woodbridge and Arlington and was the main approach to Washington, DC from the south. The first part of this opened in 1941, this was part of the Pentagon Road Network, a series of grade separated roads around the Pentagon then under construction. The Arlington section was completed in 1943, followed shortly after the Second World War, the section continued on to Woodbridge, and was completed in 1952. This was Virginia’s first extended highway. In 1957, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel opened, the Hampton Roads region’s first permanent river crossing, which would later become part of I-64.

In 1956 the system of Interstate Highways was created. In 1958, the Richmond – Petersburg Turnpike, a toll road that later served as Interstate 95, opened. Although this section opened after the creation of the Interstate Highway system, it is not usually considered Virginia’s first Interstate Highway, honoring the Emporia bypass in the far south of the state, which opened in 1959 as part from I-95. I-95 was subsequently constructed at a rapid pace through Virginia and was nearly completed by 1965, except for a 12-mile section between Emporia and Jarratt, which was not opened until 1982.

Most Interstate Highways in Virginia were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Several large new tunnels and bridges were also built at that time. In 1962 the Midtown Tunnel opened in Norfolk and in 1964 the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel opened, greatly reducing travel time along the coast. After 1980, several missing links were opened, and several completely new highways were built. For example, between 1980 and 1992 Interstate 295 was constructed as a bypass of Richmond. In 1992, the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. also opened, a four-mile river crossing between Newport News and Portsmouth. Since the 1990s, the focus of new construction has mainly been on the metropolitan regions, especially Northern Virginia and Richmond, where various toll roads have been built.

In 1988 the Powhite Parkway opened in Richmond and in 2002 the Pocahontas Parkway opened east of Richmond. This toll road has not been so successful. In 2004, State Route 288 was completed as a bypass around the west and south sides of Richmond. This was the last largest freeway project for which no toll was used. Famous at home and abroad was the reconstruction of the immense Springfield Interchange from I-95 in the suburbs of Washington, DC Int al of phases a gigantic interchange was realized between 1998 and 2007. Later the Northern Virginia region was again the center of the interest in the construction of express lanes as part of the complete reconstruction of Interstate 495 in suburban Washington, D.C. These opened to traffic in 2012. Shortly thereafter, a tolled interchangeable lane was also constructed on I-95 south of Washington, DC

Congestion

Freight traffic on I-81 near Roanoke.

The Washington, DC area is notorious for its high congestion. I-66 and I-95 in particular have poor traffic flow, although traffic flow has improved with the construction of extra capacity in the form of toll lanes and interchange lanes. However, the Washington, DC area lacks a second beltway, which was once planned, but later austere, and whose bridges have not yet been built over the Potomac River, so that all river-crossing traffic is on I-495.

The other metropolitan areas of Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, also have the necessary traffic jams, but are significantly less intense than around Washington. In the Hampton Roads region, the 2×2 lane river crossings are a classic bottleneck. Elsewhere in Virginia, the intensities are not as high, although on I-81 in the west of the state in particular, there is a lot of truck traffic that hinders the flow.

Virginia Road Network