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Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project 18 Months Behind Schedule, Reveals VDOT

Mon April 01, 2024 - National Edition

Map courtesy of VDOT

The completion of the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion project has been delayed by 18 months and is not expected until 2027, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) announced March 28.

The more than $3.9 billion project is designed to widen Interstate 64 from two to four lanes in each direction and construct a new pair of two-lane, immersed tube tunnels, each 8,000 ft. in length, which will link two existing islands — also being broadened to handle the new lanes — with trestle bridges off the shores of Hampton and Norfolk, doubling the road segment's capacity.

Hampton Roads is one of the world's largest natural harbors where three major rivers, including the James, come together just west of the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.

In addition to the new tunnel construction, the HBRT project will replace five bridge structures and widen another 23 spans.

The project was expected to be completed in 2025, the Virginian-Pilot in Newport News reported.

But VDOT's revised project schedule now sets the substantial completion date for Feb. 26, 2027, and a final completion date for Aug. 27, 2027.

Despite the delays, the state agency said the project's cost is expected to remain "nearly within the original budget."

VDOT spokesperson Ha Koehler explained the transportation department had already accounted for contingencies when the budget was being designed.

The international construction joint venture behind the project is Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP) and includes Dragados USA, a subsidiary of its Spanish parent company, two France-based firms — Vinci Construction Grands Projects and Dodin Campenon Bernard — and Flatiron Constructors, headquartered in Colorado, one of the U.S.'s top infrastructure contractors.

Despite Delays, Bridge-Tunnel Effort Still Making Progress

Setbacks first showed signs of affecting the project's timeline two years ago, when HRCP officials said the work was running 11 months behind. The joint venture submitted documentation to VDOT in 2022 stating it had suffered unforeseen cost and schedule impacts since signing the contract in 2019.

Last year, HRCP submitted a formal "Request for Equitable Adjustment" seeking changes to the contract terms due to the alleged unforeseen circumstances. According to a news release from VDOT, the contractor requested more than 600 calendar days of extension and $996 million in relief from VDOT.

Ultimately, VDOT revised its agreement with HRCP, establishing new deadlines and resetting the early completion incentive — which motivates the design-builder to complete the project ahead of schedule, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

To receive the full amount of the early completion incentive of $90 million, HRCP must achieve substantial completion by Sept. 25, 2026, which would be a delay of only 13 months compared with the project's original schedule.

The state transportation agency told the Virginian-Pilot that the modifications to the comprehensive agreement are intended to provide construction schedule certainty, enhance contractor schedule accountability, and reduce the potential for litigation.

Despite the delay, Christopher Hall, VDOT's Hampton Roads district engineer, said much work has already been accomplished to date with the project, and that work on boring and building the first of the two new tunnels is almost complete.

"The contractor is making good progress and we're being optimistic with this new change and providing some stability to them and also some certainty around our new schedule," Hall explained.

Once complete, VDOT said the expansion will ease major congestion and enhance travel time reliability in the heavily populated Hampton Roads region of southeast Virginia.

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