The Virginia Department of Transportation hosted state and local leaders at a groundbreaking event for its $3.8 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel or HRBT expansion project.
[Above photo by the Virginia DOT.]
This project aims to increase provide an easier and more reliable commute. The project extends along 9.9 miles of Interstate 64 between Hampton and Norfolk, reducing traffic congestion and easing access to both the Port of Virginia and the U.S. Navy base at Naval Station Norfolk. The tunnel currently handles more than 100,000 vehicles during peak travel periods.
“For too long, traffic in the Hampton Roads region has bottlenecked at the tunnel,” explained Governor Ralph Northam (D) in a statement. “Folks in this region deserve an easier, more reliable commute. This is the largest project in our history, and it will ensure that people can move around faster, that commerce flows more easily, and that we finally connect the Peninsula and the Southside. This project will make everyone’s lives easier when it is completed.”
“The world’s best designers, builders, engineers, and technology are converging here in Virginia to build your new tunnel,” added Shannon Valentine, Virginia’s secretary of transportation. “We are bringing every asset to the table to give people what they may value most: time.”
The Virginia DOT said construction crews would use a highly specialized tunnel boring machine to dig through soil and construct tunnel segments simultaneously as part of this project; making the HRBT project only the fourth roadway construction site in the United States to deploy such equipment.
That tunneling machinery, currently under construction in Germany, should arrive in Hampton Roads in 2021 for assembly and should begin tunneling operations in early 2022. The HRBT expansion project as a whole should wrap up in November 2025, the agency added.
“VDOT is using this advanced boring technology for the first time ever … because this is one of the nation’s most important maritime channels and this technology means less disruption to military and commercial activity [along with] less impact on marine life,” noted Stephen Brich, Virginia DOT commissioner.
In addition to alleviating congestion for motorists, the agency said the HRBT expansion project – once complete – will benefit tourism, the Port of Virginia, and the U.S. military; in particular bolstering the economic competitiveness of the Hampton Roads area with more than $4.6 billion in investments and an estimated 28,000 new jobs over the life of the project.