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Chesapeake Expressway bridge is partially closed 'until further notice'

A car bridge spans a marshy area
Ryan Murphy
The Route 168 Bypass Bridge spans the Intracoastal Waterway in Chesapeake. One of the two southbound lanes will be closed "until further notice."

Tourists headed to the Outer Banks may experience heavier than normal traffic before they cross the Virginia state line "until further notice."

That's how long Chesapeake officials say they will have to keep one southbound lane of the Route 168 Bypass Bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway closed. A boat struck the underside of the bridge last week.

The city initially shut down one of the bridge's two southbound lanes Saturday for emergency repairs. Local and tourist traffic was snared for hours.

Alternative routes around the bridge include a pair of drawbridges on Centerville Road and Battlefield Boulevard. Those already create traffic bottlenecks on occasion.

Route 168, also known as the Chesapeake Expressway, is the primary route to the Outer Banks from Virginia and the Northeast.

Data from the Virignia Department of Transportation indicates about 40,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily. During the summer months, weekend traffic is heavy with tourists heading to North Carolina.

City of Chesapeake officials say the bridge is safe, but inspectors continued to study the damage Monday.

Engineers are working on ways to deal with additional traffic while allowing work to continue on the bridge.