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VDOT Oversees $3.9B Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel Project

Thu April 11, 2024 - Southeast Edition #8
Cindy Riley – CEG Correspondent


North Island receiving pit activity on the $3.9 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation.
VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo
North Island receiving pit activity on the $3.9 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation.
North Island receiving pit activity on the $3.9 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation.   (VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo
) Katherine, the slurry treatment plant, has processed more than 200,000 cu. yds. of excavated spoils   (VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo) Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP), a construction joint venture composed of Dragados, VINCI Construction, Flatiron Constructors and Dodin Campenon Bernard, is the design-build prime contractor   (VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo) Crews will widen the current four-lane segments along almost 10 mi. of the I-64 corridor in Norfolk and Hampton, with new twin tunnels across the harbor.   (VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo) Mary the TBM has excavated nearly 4,000 ft., or roughly half, of the first of two new tunnels as of November 2023.   (VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo) Coordinating the highway construction project, the largest in the state’s history, is a daunting task.   (VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo)

With more than 1,300 construction professionals working on a daily basis, the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion project continues reaching milestones as it inches toward a 2025 finish line. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is overseeing the $3.9 billion effort, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the nation.

"There has been significant progress across all areas," said Ryan Banas, HRBT expansion project director. "The new marine trestles are taking shape across the water to connect to the tunnels. With more than half the piles, caps and girders placed, crews are in the process of pouring concrete to form the bridge decks.

VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo

"On the land side, crews have constructed many retaining walls to provide a wider footprint and are completing both median and shoulder widening throughout the corridor. Additionally, piles have been driven, and work is under way to widen the 23 bridges and overpasses that are part of the project."

Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP), a construction joint venture composed of Dragados, VINCI Construction, Flatiron Constructors and Dodin Campenon Bernard, is the design-build prime contractor. HDR and Mott MacDonald serve as lead designers on the project, which will widen the current four-lane segments along almost 10 mi. of the I-64 corridor in Norfolk and Hampton, with new twin tunnels across the harbor.

The I-64 HRBT in southeast Virginia has long been considered one of the region's most congested corridors. The expansion will reportedly increase capacity, ease major congestion and enhance travel time reliability.

According to Banas, bridge rehabilitation more than $75 million is actively under way, including substructure repairs, bearing replacement and coating system upgrades. Tunneling began in April 2023, and has been progressing steadily, with an anticipated completion of the first tunnel by spring 2024.

Coordinating the highway construction project, the largest in the state's history, is a daunting task. Banas said the multi-year undertaking requires a great deal of patience and experience.

"Like any business, VDOT focuses on two key fundamentals to deliver the project — our people and our processes. We are extremely fortunate to have a team of diverse staff coming from multiple backgrounds, countries and bringing their own very specific expertise. Given the breadth of the project's scope of work, it requires subject matter experts of all kinds, including roadway builders, bridge erectors, staff experience in marine construction, traffic system specialists and tunnel constructors.

"The project has a unique advantage in that its sheer size and breadth of work makes it a destination for talent and draws staff from across the state, country and world. Our processes to manage it are very similar to other projects; however, we multiply those efforts by multiple scopes of work and project areas. It has been broken down into eight areas that have a leadership structure that mirrors traditional projects. We use good fundamentals at each area to roll up and report to execute management as one large project."

Although construction is steady, there have been delays. The contractual completion date remains November 2025; however, the contractor is more than a year behind schedule. Banas noted that VDOT and the contractor are in communication on a regular basis and are actively collaborating to find ways to deliver the project as quickly and efficiently as possible.

A standout during construction is the more than 400-ft. long tunnel boring machine (TBM), known affectionately as "Mary" — a nod to Mary Jackson, one of NASA's "Hidden Figures" — chosen by middle schoolers as part of a contest.

VDOT HRBT Expansion Project photo

"Mary the TBM and Katherine, the slurry treatment plant, are currently hard at work building the first of two tunnels. Mary has excavated nearly 4,000 ft., or roughly half, of the first of two new tunnels as of November 2023. Katherine has processed more than 200,000 cu. yds. of spoils excavated by Mary."

Banas said both pieces of equipment are working extremely well mining earth, erecting rings and separating spoils from the slurry.

"As you can imagine, it's quite an impressive construction project, and photos just can't quite convey the magnitude of the new tunnel. With the bored tunnel approach, the progress on the new tunnel is not visible on the surface. Visitors are awestruck by the sheer size of everything related to the project, including the slurry treatment plant that's 2.5 times larger than it needs to be for redundancies, the launch pit which is nearly as large as a football field in length and is roughly 75 feet deep, and of course the tunnel boring machine and tunnel which has an impressive 46-foot diameter."

He added, "The HRBT Expansion project is truly an engineering marvel. Mary is the second largest TBM used in North America and will be building only the fourth vehicular road tunnels via TBM here in the United States. With the assistance of our local funding partner HRTAC, 92 percent of this funding is coming from regional revenue that will positively impact the very people who have provided the funding to help construction of the project. To date, the project has logged more than nine million man hours, and we're less than halfway complete." CEG




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