Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam joined the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and state and local leaders to break ground on the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) Expansion Project on Oct. 29. The $3.8 billion project will increase tunnel and interstate capacity along 16 km (9.9 miles) of Interstate 64 between Hampton and Norfolk, reducing congestion and easing access to the Port of Virginia and the world’s largest Naval base.
“For too long, traffic in the Hampton Roads region has bottlenecked at the tunnel,” said Northam. “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,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “We are bringing every asset to the table to give people what they may value most—time.”
Virginia crews will use a highly-specialized tunnel boring machine to dig through soil and construct tunnel segments simultaneously. The advanced technology is used in the construction of highly complex projects such as Manhattan’s Second Avenue Subway. The new HRBT is only the fourth roadway project to use this equipment in the United States. The machinery is under construction in Germany and is expected to arrive in Hampton Roads in 2021 for assembly, which will take several months. It is expected to begin tunneling operations in early 2022, HRBT Expansion said in a release.
“VDOT is using this advanced boring technology for the first time ever,” said VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich. “We’re doing it because this is one of the nation’s most important maritime channels, and this technology means less disruption to military and commercial activity, and less impact on marine life.”
The project has received support from the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC), federal, and local partners. Design-build contractor Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP) received Notice to Proceed for full construction activities in September. The project is expected to be completed in November 2025.
“The HRBT expansion project is a great example of how the legislature, VDOT, and HRTAC are working together to achieve a greater vision for transportation in Hampton Roads and provide solutions to bring the region out of gridlock,” said Kevin Page, HRTAC Executive Director.
A Project Administration and Funding Agreement with HRTAC first announced in April 2019 commits 92 percent of locally-sourced funding for the expansion. Additional financing includes $200 million from the Commonwealth’s SMART SCALE program and $108 million from VDOT.
The HRBT Expansion Project will add twin, two-lane bored tunnels and widen the four-lane segments of Interstate 64 in Hampton between Settlers Landing Road and the Phoebus shoreline, and in Norfolk between the Willoughby shoreline and the I-564 interchange. More than 100,000 vehicles currently use this facility during peak travel periods.
State and regional leaders including Secretary of Transportation Valentine, VDOT Commissioner Stephen Brich, Hampton Mayor Donnie Tuck, Norfolk Mayor Kenneth Alexander, Suffolk Mayor and HRTAC Chair Linda Johnson, and representatives from VDOT, HRTAC, and HRCP attended the social-distanced groundbreaking event with Gov. Northam.
Photo courtesy of HRBT Expansion