VDOT Delays Installation of Bridge, Tunnel Security Gates

Wed August 31, 2005 - Southeast Edition

NORFOLK, VA (AP) Delays in designing new security gates for southeastern Virginia’s bridges and tunnels have forced the Virginia Department of Transportation to postpone installing them until the funding becomes available.

The agency said in February that it plans to install the high-strength gates at all its major bridges and tunnels to improve traffic control during emergencies such as terrorist attacks.

At the time, officials said each gate would cost about $150,000.

But designing them has taken longer than expected and the delay has moved the project into a new fiscal year, which began July 1, changing how they can be paid for, VDOT spokeswoman Lauren Hansen said. The gates are still a priority, but will now have to compete with other maintenance projects.

“It does not mean that these projects will not be completed, but they are now going to be considered individually, and there are hundreds of priorities,” she told The Virginian-Pilot.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, state departments of transportation conducted exhaustive security reviews at all major facilities, looking for vulnerabilities.

VDOT’s findings have largely been kept confidential. The installation of gates would be a more public display of that ongoing effort, VDOT has said.

Security gates, which are designed to stop a tractor-trailer, were being designed for the entrances to the James River Bridge, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel, the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel, the High-Rise Bridge on Interstate 64 in Chesapeake and the Downtown Tunnel at the Elizabeth River.

Improvements to the Coleman Bridge, which spans the York River between York and Gloucester counties, and the Midtown Tunnel between Norfolk and Portsmouth were on hold pending completion of construction-related work, VDOT said at the time.

Work at the Pinners Point project on the Portsmouth side of the Midtown Tunnel is nearing completion, so design on gates for that tunnel can now proceed, she said.