The Homeland Security exercise that slowed traffic at the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel on Thursday morning was a routine sweep and not a response to any perceived threat or danger, the Virginia Department of Transportation acknowledged Friday.
VDOT spokeswoman Lauren Hansen said the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration conduct regular exercises at bridges, tunnels and ferries around Hampton Roads that are considered to be "critical infrastructure." The latest sweep, which was complicated by two unrelated accidents on Interstate 64 in Hampton, caused lengthy delays for commuters.
"These exercises happen a few times a year in our region," Hansen said. "Unfortunately, we are not permitted to let the public know ahead of time when it is going to happen because of the security involved, but it is an exercise that is done on a regular basis to make sure all the safeties and securities are met."
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A TSA spokesman, Kawika Riley, said, "At the request of the Virginia Department of Transportation, TSA has provided assets from our Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams for a joint exercise at the Hampton Roads Bridge and Tunnel." "This effort has been coordinated with our federal, state and local law enforcement partners in the area. VIPRs provide detection and response capabilities, and expand the unpredictability of security measures to detect, deter or disrupt potential criminal or terrorist operations."
The VIPR teams have been used at other local bridge crossings from time to time in Hampton Roads, including the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.