The big dig commences
Crews break ground on $3.8B Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel expansion
Crews broke ground Thursday on the $3.8 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion — the largest project in the Virginia Department of Transportation’s history and one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam joined state and local leaders in a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning, marking the commencement of the project.
The project will increase tunnel and interstate capacity along 9.9 miles of Interstate 64 between Hampton and Norfolk in order to reduce congestion and improve access to the Port of Virginia.
“For too long, traffic in the Hampton Roads region has bottlenecked at the tunnel,” Northam said in a statement. “Folks in this region deserve an easier, more reliable commute. This is the largest project in our history, and it will ensure that people can move around faster, that commerce flows more easily, and that we finally connect the Peninsula and the Southside. This project will make everyone’s lives easier when it is completed.”
Video courtesy VDOT
Using new tunnel-excavation technology, twin two-lane tunnels (approximately 50 feet deeper than the current tunnels) will be constructed west of the existing eastbound tunnel and more than two dozen marine bridges will be replaced. The four-lane sections of the Interstate 64 corridor between Settlers Landing Road in Hampton and the Phoebus shoreline and the four-lane section of I-64 in Norfolk between the Willoughby shoreline and the I-564 interchange will be widened to six lanes. A third lane and a drivable shoulder in each direction will also be added. The completed project — which is expected for 2025 — will include a total of eight lanes across the water.
“The world’s best designers, builders, engineers and technology are converging here in Virginia to build your new tunnel,” Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine said in a statement . “We are bringing every asset to the table to give people what they may value most — time.”
Funding for the project was provided by the commonwealth of Virginia, the Hampton Roads Transportation Accessibility Commission (HRTAC), federal and local partners.
The design-build team for the project is Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP), a joint venture led by New York-based Dragados USA Inc. and including Vinci Construction, Flatiron Construction Corp. and Vinci subsidiary Dodin Campenon Bernard.
Crews will use new tunnel-boring technology to dig through soil and construct tunnel segments. The HRBT is only the fourth roadway project to use the equipment in the nation. Machinery is under construction in Germany and is expected to arrive in Hampton Roads in 2021 for assembly. Tunneling operations are expected to commence in early 2022.
“VDOT is using this advanced boring technology for the first time ever,” VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich said in a statement. “We’re doing it because this is one of the nation’s most important maritime channels, and this technology means less disruption to military and commercial activity, and less impact on marine life.”