Interstate 664 in Virginia is a western bypass and alternate route for the Virginia Tidewater and the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. I-664 begins with a northerly orientation toward the James River from Bowers Hill in Chesapeake, where the east end of I-64 and west end of I-264 converge. North from Suffolk and Portsmouth, I-664 crosses the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge Tunnel before entering Newport News and Hampton, where it reunites with I-64.
Interstate 664 utilizes sequential based exit numbers. The route represents the western half of the Hampton Roads Beltway system; the eastern half is Interstate 64. Signs and trailblazers are posted on the beltway using inner and outer directions.
Planning for Interstate 664 began in 196811 and the first contract for work on the route was awarded in 1971.3 The location and design of the bridge-tunnel linking Newport News and Suffolk was approved in 1973, with initial construction starting in 1978.11 The first segment of Interstate 664 was completed from I-64 south to Powhatan Parkway in Hampton on June 25, 1981. This entailed upgrading the previously built Newport News Connector (SR 134). The freeway was further extended another 2.6 miles southwest to Roanoke Avenue in Newport News by December 1983.15
Dredging in Thimble Shoal Channel started on February 18, 1986 for the fill material needed to create the islands for the I-664 bridge-tunnel. 2.25 million cubic yards of material was needed.1 Virginia was awarded $149.7 million in federal highway funds in May 1986 to complete the bridge tunnel system along I-664. The $637-million overall cost for I-664 included $140 million for access roads at Newport News and $100 million for the interchange at Bowers Hill with Interstate 64.2 The $126.25-million contract awarded on August 21, 1986 for the pair of 4,732 foot long tunnels on I-664 was the most expensive single construction contract awarded to date in the state of Virginia.3
A ribbon cutting ceremony held on September 16, 1987 formally opened a 1.5-mile section of Interstate 664 between 34th Street at Downtown Newport News and Chestnut Avenue (Exit 4) to the north.4 This section was extended southward to 23rd and 26th Streets by January 1988.14 Work on the tunnel system continued to March 31, 1988, when the first of 15 tunnel segments were sunk into place.5 The last of the tubes was laid into place on June 27, 1989.6 The steel tube segments are 80 feet wide and 40 feet deep.5
The 3.1-mile elevated roadway linking the tunnel south entrance with Suffolk was completed by August 1990.7 The December 1991 completion date was pushed back in June 1991 to April 1992 as crews continued to work on the electrical and ventilation systems to March of that year.8
The tunnel system was officially named the Monitor Merrimack Memorial Bridge Tunnel in September 1991 by the Virginia Transportation Board. 1,800 area residents signed a petition to name the crossing after the March 9, 1862 battle between the Union and Confederate ironclads. The two vessels engaged one another about a mile from the crossing.9
A seven mile section of Interstate 664, from Chesapeake north to SR 135 (Exit 8) in Suffolk, opened to traffic following a ribbon cutting ceremony held on January 17, 1992. The freeway cost $139 million.10 This section tied into the bridge-tunnel complex when it opened to traffic at 12:01 AM on April 30, 1992. A formal dedication of the Monitor Merrimack Memorial Bridge Tunnel was held the previous day and led by Gov. L. Douglas Wilder, completing the $400 million crossing.12,13 Interstate 664 was not approved by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Special Committee on Route Numbering until June 13, 1992.