The Powhite Parkway opened to traffic on January 24, 1973. It was the first section of the RMA Expressway System to be completed. The parkway covers 3.4 miles between Chippenham Parkway and the Cary Street ramps, and includes the .4-mile-long Powhite Bridge crossing the James River.
In September 1975, the Powhite Parkway Toll Plaza was widened to accommodate increased traffic. It was widened again in November 1988. At the same time, the Powhite Bridge was widened, and a new northbound on-ramp was built at the Forest Hill interchange.
Also in November 1988, VDOT opened the Powhite Extension which connects the RMA's Powhite Parkway to western Chesterfield County.
In 1992, the Powhite Parkway was widened from three to four lanes northbound between Chippenham Parkway and the toll plaza. The number of lanes north of the bridge to Cary Street was increased from four to six.
The Powhite Parkway Toll Plaza has a total of 20 lanes, 14 physical lanes, and 6 Open Road Tolling Lanes (three in each direction).
The Forest Hill interchange has a total of eight lanes to its on- and off-ramps to Powhite Parkway.
The Douglasdale ramps north of the river have two unmanned lanes connected to the parkway.
Most recently, the Powhite Parkway underwent an extensive construction project to widen the northbound and southbound lanes.
Today the Powhite Parkway is one of the most heavily-traveled corridors in the Richmond metropolitan area. Nearly 90,000 vehicles travel on the Powhite Parkway each day with that figure rising to more than 100,000 on peak days.
The official pronunciation is "POW-hite," in the same manner as you pronounce "Powhatan" and "Powder." The name comes from the name of the creek that the parkway follows. References to the creek by this name have been found in records more than 300 years old, and the creek probably was named by Native Americans who were in the area long before colonial settlers arrived.