Did you know that Coastal Virginia is the only place in the United States that has bridge-tunnels? Even more intriguing is the fact that there are only 11 other bridge-tunnel combinations in the world. So why is Hampton Roads the only place in the nation with bridge-tunnels? The answer has more than a little to do with the area’s military presence.
What is a Bridge-Tunnel?
A bridge-tunnel is a continuous road that crosses a body of water using a combination of bridges and tunnels. The three bridge-tunnels in Coastal Virginia are the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, and the Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel. The rest of the world’s bridge-tunnels reside in China, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, and several other countries.
was completed in 1957 and could quite possibly be the oldest and first bridge-tunnel combination in the world. Before the bridge-tunnel was constructed, a ferry system would carry 2500 cars a day back and forth across the harbor.
The HRBT comes in at a whopping 3.5 miles in distance and connects Hampton, Virginia to Norfolk, Virginia via Interstate 64 (I-64). And did you know that the body of water the HRBT crosses is called Hampton Roads? Our region is actually named after a vital waterway – not the City of Hampton or its roads!
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT)
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a long one coming in at 17.6 miles shore to shore. The bridge-tunnel crosses several waterways which include the Chesapeake Bay, Hampton Roads harbor, and the James and Elizabeth Rivers. The CBBT connects Virginia Beach to Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Monitor Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel
Completed in 1992, the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel is approximately 4.6 miles long. It crosses the Hampton Roads harbor where the James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth Rivers merge. The bridge-tunnel connects Newport News to Suffolk via Interstate 664. It is named after two warships from the Battle of Hampton Roads in 1862 – the USS Monitor and the USS Merrimack.
What makes Hampton Roads so unique?
The Chesapeake Bay and the Hampton Roads harbor are both critical waterways for Naval Station Norfolk – the largest naval base in the world! The base is the reason we have bridge-tunnels in Hampton Roads. These waterways cannot risk being blocked by a collapsed bridge in the event of a national emergency.
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About Explore CoVA
Explore CoVA is a travel and lifestyle blog designed to help you find new and local things to do in the region. Follow our journey as we explore, taste, sip, and play our way through Coastal Virginia.