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Skanska Motors Through VA’s Pinners Point Project

Wed September 03, 2003 - Northeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has selected Tidewater Skanska Inc. to build the Pinners Point Interchange, VDOT’s largest single construction contract, in Portsmouth, VA. The road and bridge project will provide an interstate-type connection from Portsmouth’s Western Freeway into the Portsmouth Marine Terminal and the Midtown Tunnel, which connects Norfolk and Portsmouth. Tidewater Skanska has reached the halfway mark on the construction, which was scheduled to take 1,000 days.

Gov. Mark Warner officially commenced the project at a groundbreaking ceremony on May 15, 2002, at the Portsmouth Marine Terminal. Officials from VDOT, the city of Portsmouth, the Virginia Port Authority, the Federal Highway Administration and Tidewater Skanska were all in attendance to commemorate the historic project.

The project, awarded at $136 million and now estimated at $138.7 million, serves three purposes. When the project is complete in December 2004, it will remove traffic from the historic Port Norfolk neighborhood, and residents will see a reduction in traffic by more than 80 percent. The new interchange also will provide a more direct route for industrial traffic to and from the Portsmouth Marine Terminal, making access smoother. Additionally, the project will ensure faster, easier access to the Midtown tunnel for commuters.

The 2-mi. (3.2 km) project begins in the middle of the West Norfolk Bridge and proceeds east over the western branch of the Elizabeth River to a point just north of Bayview Boulevard. The roadway then connects with Route 58 (Martin Luther King Freeway) and the Midtown Tunnel after moving southeasterly across property owned by TARMAC Inc. and the Portsmouth Marine Terminal. As part of an agreement arranged by Tidewater Skanska, the contractor rents the TARMAC-owned land during construction and buys the concrete for the job from TARMAC as well.

The main roads of the Pinners Point Interchange project are divided highways with a minimum of two lanes of traffic in each direction separated by a median. All roadwork will consist of excavation, clearing, grading, paving, utilities, wick drains, fence/guardrails and sound walls. One of the biggest subcontractors on the job is E.V. Williams, Norfolk, VA, performing earthwork and paving work. The project has required 320,000 cu. yds. (244,700 cu m) of fill to be brought in from various locations.

Tidewater Skanska’s contract also includes electrical work and signs. A traffic management system, which will include traffic cameras and other safety devices to be controlled by the Smart Traffic Center, will be installed when the project nears completion. In addition, a new Midtown Tunnel Building Complex will be built by subcontractor, Virtexco, Virginia Beach, for use as a tunnel support facility.

The Pinners Point Interchange design consists of six bridges: one over water, one over the CSX railroad and four that will navigate primarily over the Portsmouth Marine Terminal. The bridges will consist of concrete piles, drilled shaft foundations, reinforcing steel, structural steel beams, concrete beams, concrete deck and parapets.

The new bridge over the western branch of the Elizabeth River will begin near the middle of the West Norfolk Bridge. According to Buddy Watson, Tidewater Skanska project manager, construction crews have demolished part of the West Norfolk Bridge and will tie in the new bridge as part of the project. The bridge will be approximately 3,100 ft. (944.9 m) long with a four-lane divided roadway, including two traffic lanes and a breakdown lane in each direction that will connect to an interchange proceeding to Route 58 and the Midtown Tunnel. An access channel paralleling the bridge has been dredged to aid construction of the water bridge, which is on concrete piles. Tidewater Skanska is building 27 new piers for the bridge and modifying three existing ones.

According to Bill Eskins Jr., Tidewater Skanksa project superintendent, the company purchased a 300-ton (272 t) capacity Manitowoc 2250 crane to drive the 66-in. (167.6 cm) diameter cylinder piles for the water bridge.

“We placed the crane on FlexiFloats because the water bridge is tidal and not deep enough to provide full floatation at low tide,” said Eskins.

Bayshore Concrete Products, Cape Charles, VA, a member of Tidewater Skanska Group Inc., will supply the 100- to 144-ft. (30.4 to 43.9 m) long, 66-in. (168 cm) diameter concrete cylinder piles, which have a 6-in. (15 cm) wall thickness and weigh up to 98 tons (89 t). The company also will supply the large prestressed concrete girders that will be required for the bridge above the Elizabeth River. Crews are using a Raymond 60X offshore pile hammer to drive in the cylinder piles. The girders are being shipped by barge from Cape Charles, and it takes the company two days to off-load and install all of the girders from the barge. The size of the load varies; sometimes there are as many as 12 girders per barge.

The new bridge will not be a cross-river bridge but an offshore avoidance alignment where the bridge goes out offshore to parallel the Port Norfolk area and then later returns to the same shoreline. The bridge was designed so that it would not obstruct the existing river view from historic Port Norfolk.

“It runs parallel to the shore to tie into the existing bridge,” explained Edward Keeter, Tidewater Skanska vice president of administration. “It gets traffic out of the residential neighborhood.”

The project is not so immense in the area it covers but more so in the complexity of the details.

“Anybody can see this project just driving by it, through it, over it, or under it at any given point in time,” acknowledged Watson.

As with any large project, challenges will be encountered and overcome. Construction projects up and down the east coast have experienced weather-related delays due to excessive rainfall this year, and the Pinners Point Interchange is no exception.

“We had a terrible January through April period, trying to keep ahead of the rain is too much,” said Watson. “It has created a problem as to being able to schedule work out here and being able to work around it. It has delayed the project, there’s no doubt about that. We’re working with VDOT to change some of the sequence of construction so that it can open at the same time it was originally scheduled.”

It’s not just the weather that has been troublesome; it seems there is a new challenge every day on the project. Early on, there were problems with underground obstructions. When initial construction began, workers found that the foundation material was inferior and a great portion of it was debris and fill.

“In the first several months we had a lot of different site conditions and ran into utilities that needed to be relocated,” said Watson.

Another tricky aspect of the project is that much of the work is occurring on the property owned by the Portsmouth Marine Terminal. Large trucks, mainly 18-wheelers, must drive through the terminal daily. Watson estimated that 1,400 trucks a day go through the terminal entrance site. The trucks are literally inches from the construction equipment and workers.

Additionally, a problematic part of the Pinners Point Interchange project is working amongst Scott’s Creek and many other protected wetlands. Among other things, this required the removal of railroad tracks so that subcontractor, Webb Inc., Chester, VA, could install 87-in. (221 cm) diameter jacked-pipe during off-peak hours. After that, the railroad tracks had to be reinstalled.

Tidewater Skanska was awarded the contract under a fairly new bidding procedure. VDOT sought bids based not only on the project cost but also on the time it would take to complete the project. When Tidewater Skanska bid the project, its proposal had the project completed in 14 months less than VDOT had projected. The bid also has an incentive of $20,000 a day up to 300 days for early completion and a penalty of $20,000 a day for each day the project goes beyond the contract terms. When bidding out specific projects, VDOT is using these types of contracts more often so that a project is built quicker.

Tidewater Skanska Inc. is based in Virginia Beach and is a subsidiary of Skanska USA Civil, which is a business unit of Skanska AB, the international construction company based in Stockholm, Sweden.