NORFOLK, Va. (AP) -- The Virginia Department of Transportation and the Navy have signed an agreement that will allow work to begin on the Interstate 564 intermodal connector.

The project will connect the existing I-564 through Naval Station Norfolk with Norfolk International Terminals. The new road is intended to redirect heavy truck traffic from area streets, improve access to the base and decrease congestion on a high-speed highway.

"This transportation project helps increase the efficiency at our Norfolk International Terminal and is a tremendous benefit for the Port of Virginia and the commonwealth as a whole," William Fralin, a Virginia Port Authority commissioner, said Thursday in a statement.

The connector will have four lanes with a grass median and includes new bridges, overpasses, and exit and entrance ramps. It will also provide separate traffic lanes for vehicles entering the naval station and Norfolk International Terminals.

The connector's end point will provide access to Naval Station Norfolk, to the northern side of Norfolk International Terminals and eastbound re-entry to I-564 from both access points.

Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton says extending and realigning I-564 will also provide the starting point for a future crossing under the Elizabeth River to Interstate 664.

"A smooth-flowing transportation network is of utmost importance to the security and economy of this region and the nation", Connaughton said in a statement.

The estimated cost of the I-564 extension project is $169 million.

VDOT plans to advertise for the I-564 connector within the first three months of 2013 to get a contractor to design and build the project, according to Greg Whirley, VDOT commissioner.