Kennedy Keeps Hampton Roads Area Tunnels Up to Snuff

Wed May 17, 2000 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni




The Kennedy Company of VA Inc. continues work on a tunnel maintenance contract awarded by the Virginia Department of Transportation in March 1999.

The one-year contract, valued at approximately $677,000, was renewed in March 2000. The contract involves maintenance of five tunnels in the Hampton Roads area, including the Downtown and Midtown Tunnels, which connect the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk, the Monitor-Merrimac Bridge-Tunnel, the 1-564 tunnel and the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel.

Much of the equipment used for the maintenance, which involves cleaning the tunnels and changing the light bulbs, was built at The Kennedy Company in Chesapeake, VA. The company has two wash trucks, two lens trucks, a crash truck and a cone truck devoted to this contract.

“We had to build some of the equipment because it is specialized,” said Lynn Kennedy, president. “It’s not something you can go out and just buy.”

The main wash truck #1 is a Mack MR90 with a hydraulic boom and hydraulic brush head, which run off of a PTO (power take-off) unit. The truck, used for cleaning walls and ceilings, also has a water tank with pressure pumps and a soap tank with soap pumps.

Wash truck #2 is currently being built and will be ready for use before the contract is renewed. Kurt V. Kennedy, project manager, converted an old ladder fire truck retired from the City of Chesapeake into a wash truck by adding hydraulic brush heads, a water tank with a pump and soap tanks with pumps. The hydraulics on the second wash truck are powered by an auxiliary diesel engine. A driver and an operator are required to handle the wash trucks, which are remote controlled from the passenger side of the cab.

Kennedy Company owns two lens trucks used for changing light bulbs and cleaning lights within the tunnels. The main lens truck is a 1995 GMC truck previously owned by Ryder and used for hauling. Kurt Kennedy reduced the size of the truck bed from 11 feet to eight feet by severing and removing the bed, then cutting it down to size, and replacing and welding the bed.

A hydraulic-operated catwalk, which shifts two feet each side, was also added to the top of the truck. The catwalk enables the worker to reach corner lights in order to change the bulbs or wash the lights in sinks installed on the catwalk. The lens truck, requiring only one operator, also has a pressure pump, a generator and a hydraulic unit. The company utilizes two lens trucks to accommodate the various heights of the tunnels.

Kennedy Company also owns a cone truck and a crash truck used during tunnel maintenance. The cone truck is a Ford F250 with a special platform for the worker to stand on while placing and removing cones. The crash truck is a Ford F700 with an impact attenuator and a solar-powered arrow board. Since a cushion cannot be attached to a vehicle containing people at work, the crash truck is a requirement.

As part of the maintenance contract, each tunnel will receive six cleanings per year with an option for a seventh cleaning, time permitting. According to Kurt Kennedy, completing six cleanings per tunnel per year is a lesson in time management. The challenge is the extent to which the tunnels must be cleaned.

“We are cleaning everything inside the tunnel,” exclaimed Lynn Kennedy. “I mean everything, even where the fire extinguishers sit and the hand rails.”

Another formidable task for the company is traffic control. Ten workers are employed to clean five tunnels during the hours of 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The tunnels do not close for maintenance; rather, the company is responsible for closing lanes where work is being performed. Kennedy Company’s employees must set up all traffic control, including closing a lane throughout an entire tunnel and outside of it as well. Traffic patterns are different for each of the five tunnels, requiring the workers to be extra conscientious. During its first year of the contract, the company did not have any injuries.

When Kennedy Company received the contract, the tunnels had not been cleaned thoroughly for three years. In the beginning, three cleanings were required in each tunnel before they were actually clean.

According to Lynn Kennedy, “The key is to keep the cycles going so that the tunnels don’t get that buildup, especially in the areas where trucks accelerate. Different parts of the tunnel are dirtier than others.”

How to clean the tunnels properly required some experimenting on the company’s part. After realizing that pressure washing did not work, the Kennedys discovered that a good cleaning could be achieved by using friction, heat and soap. In order to meet environmental regulations, the soap must be pH neutral and comply with the tunnels’ discharge permits.

“The challenge is to get the tunnel clean while using a pH neutral soap that’s not caustic,” explained Lynn Kennedy.

All work is inspected by VDOT after each cleaning cycle. A light meter is used to calculate the cleanliness of the tunnels, which must be a minimum of 7.5 foot-candles, measured four feet high from the roadway.

The Kennedy Company of VA, founded in 1987, is located in Chesapeake and works primarily in the Tidewater area. With an average of 15 employees on staff, the company also provides concrete services and performs underground utility work.

Kennedy Company only works for government agencies. Presently, the company’s day crew is performing mechanical work for the Army Corps of Engineers on a new storm water pump station at 42nd Street in Virginia Beach.