Volume 4, Issue 2 | December 2015
Elizabeth River Tunnels: News and Updates
Connections features updates to construction, traffic, community impacts, and other issues to keep you up to date on the progress of the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project.
Lane closures and tunnel closures are suspended for the Christmas holiday from noon Thursday, Dec. 24 until noon Monday, Dec. 28.
No full weekend closures planned.
No lane closures.
Des Moines Avenue: Full closure Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 21 and 22 from 8 p.m. each night until 5 a.m. the following morning.
Visit the Travel Impacts page for more information.
New Toll Rates Go Into Effect January 2016
Toll rates at the Elizabeth River Tunnels will increase on Jan. 1, 2015, as provided for in Amendment No. 3 to the Comprehensive Agreement between the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and ERC.
The E-ZPass toll rates at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels for 2016 are as follows:
Passenger Vehicles (two axles, including motorcycles)
Heavy Vehicles (three or more axles, includes cars with trailers)
- Off-Peak Period: $1.25
- Peak Period: $1.50
The peak period is Monday-Friday, 5:30 a.m.-9:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.-7:00 p.m. All other times, including weekends and designated holidays, are considered off-peak.
- Off-Peak Period: $3.75
- Peak Period: $6.00
For Pay by Plate motorists (without an E-ZPass transponder), the processing fee will increase to $2.50 per trip in addition to the toll.
As a reminder, Dec. 25 and Jan. 1 are holidays – motorists will pay the off-peak rate.
View the Toll Rates page for more information.
Special Limited-Time Offer for Pay by Plate Customers
The ERT Customer Service Center is offering Pay by Plate customers a limited-time offer through Dec. 31, 2015.
Pay by Plate customers who pay outstanding invoices and notices in full by Dec. 31, 2015 will receive 50% off processing and administrative fees. This offer does not apply to overdue unpaid final notices that have already been referred to collections.
To receive this offer, customers must contact the ERT Customer Service Center at 757-821-2659 or 1-855-ERT-ROAD, or visit the ERT Customer Service Center at 700 Port Centre Parkway, Portsmouth, VA, Mon. – Sat., 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. This offer is not available online.
Midtown Tunnel Milestones
Removal of the final bulkhead this month now connects all 11 tunnel elements without a barrier from shore to shore.
The Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project marked two significant milestones in the construction of the new Midtown Tunnel in early December when the new tide gate was installed and the final bulkhead was removed, allowing passage between Norfolk and Portsmouth under the Elizabeth River.
The steel bulkhead (pictured left) at the Norfolk Approach was the final physical barrier separating the mile-long tunnel from the Norfolk shoreline. Between October 2014 and July 2015, crews lowered each of the 11 tunnel elements into the Elizabeth River along with the protective bulkheads between each piece. After sealing the joints between each element, crews removed the bulkheads as additional tunnel elements were placed from the Portsmouth side of the river to the Norfolk Approach.
As each element was placed and securely attached to the next, bulkheads on either end – in place to prevent water from flooding the element -- were removed. The process began on the Portsmouth end, with the final bulkhead removed at the Norfolk end.
“We have a tunnel now, not just a hole in the ground,” said Gary Webb, Elizabeth River Crossing’s (ERC) Project Manager for the new Midtown Tunnel. “Even though we still have a lot of work to do, seeing it open on both ends is a major milestone.”
Construction crews now have full access to the tunnel while working to prepare it for traffic next December. Current finishing work includes structural concrete placement for the road bed, conduit installation for electrical service and communications, fire protection installation on the tunnel walls, egress corridor construction and the installation of water systems and other utilities.
Opening the tunnel from end to end also involved the completion of another construction milestone – installation of the new tide gate (pictured left), which can be lowered into place to seal the tunnel during severe weather conditions when tidal surge could cause flood conditions. The gate is approximately the length and weight of a Hampton Roads Transit bus and is equipped with enhanced emergency response and evacuation readiness features.
Additional flood protection measures have been put in place at the Norfolk Approach for both the new and existing Midtown tunnels, which are designed to accommodate future sea-level rises.
Meet ERC's New Chief of Operations: Jeff Minnix
ERC welcomed Jeff Minnix to its management team as Chief Operating Officer in September. While he’s no stranger to the ERT Project — Minnix was working as a subcontractor to SKW Constructors, JV as Quality Assurance Manager for the past three years — he is new to ERC’s operating company.
Minnix’s role is to direct and manage the daily operations and maintenance of the Downtown Tunnel, the Midtown Tunnel and soon, the new Midtown Tunnel and Martin Luther King (MLK) Extension.
“It was quite a first month,” Minnix said. “I walked in to preparing the budget for 2016, preparing for hurricane season, Joaquin and high tides, preparing for snow removal, and substantial completion of portions of the job.” He also got married that same month.
Minnix has extensive experience in operations and maintenance, having been contracted through a consulting firm to develop, and then manage the Virginia Department of Transportation’s (VDOT) Transportation Management System in Hampton Roads and other VDOT Traffic Operations Centers in Richmond, Salem and Staunton. In that role, he also managed many other projects and clients.
“I was looking for an opportunity to simplify things,” he said. “What appealed to me is I wanted to work on a mega-project with a singular focus.”
As a civil engineer, Minnix is accustomed to developing plans over extended periods to solve problems. “This is different,” he said. “There are minute-by-minute problems we’re addressing. It’s a lot more fast-paced and dynamic.”
He said he’s especially enjoying the strategic planning responsibilities and making sure his 85-person operations and maintenance staff is ready for anything.
“Every day there are new challenges,” Minnix said. “I like being able to respond to those things and every day go home and look back and say, we got something done today.”
His goal: "Provide safe, efficient and effective operations and maintenance services within a culture of continuous improvement.”
ERC Gives Back: Feeding the Community with Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia
ERC volunteers distribute food at a mobile food pantry location in Portsmouth.
The people at Foodbank of Southeastern VA work tirelessly to meet a tremendous year-round need in the community. The agency distributes emergency food to over 400 partner agencies and programs including soup kitchens, food pantries and emergency shelters in addition to its own Mobile Pantry, Kids Cafe® and BackPack programs. Its service area includes the cities of Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Suffolk, Franklin and Virginia Beach, as well as the counties of Southampton, Northampton, Sussex, Isle of Wight and Accomack.
With 96 percent of every donation made to Foodbank going toward programs and services, and with the extensive reach of its services throughout the Southside Hampton Roads community, the decision to partner with Foodbank was an easy one for ERC. Since 2012, ERC has been a passionate supporter of the Foodbank through financial donations, volunteering and organizing food drives.
One of the ways ERC employees pitch in to help is by providing volunteer teams to collect and sort food at the Mayflower Marathon, Foodbank’s largest annual food drive, and through a friendly food drive competition among the different departments within ERC.
Two of the programs ERC is proud to financially support are the Kids Café and Backpack programs which impact three of ERC’s focus areas of giving: Education, Youth Development and Health and Wellness.
The Kids Café program makes free meals and snacks available to low-income children through a variety of existing community locations such as Boys & Girls Clubs, churches, or public schools.
In addition to providing evening meals to hungry kids, all Kids Cafe Programs offer a safe place where children can get involved in educational, recreational, and social activities.
With the Backpack Program, eligible children receive bags filled with nutritious food to take home for weekends and school vacations. The backpacks are provided free of charge, and are discreetly distributed to children before weekends or holiday vacations.
For more information about Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and to learn how you can help, please visit www.foodbankonline.org.
Midtown Tunnel Construction
Tunnel Interior Work
Concrete topping slab on the roadways inside Element 1. Asphalt will cover this slab at the end of construction.
Inside the new Midtown Tunnel, the Project team continues to outfit the elements with fireproofing, electrical equipment in the corridor and roadway areas, hangers for overhead lights and signs, and the installation of water lines and sprinklers throughout the tunnel.
Contractors began installing the concrete topping slab in the roadway this month. A final layer of asphalt will be placed on top of the topping slab during the final stages of construction.
The final bulkhead at the Norfolk Approach was removed earlier this month, effectively connecting all 11 elements without a barrier from the Portsmouth to Norfolk shorelines.
Work on the marine portion of the new Midtown Tunnel is nearly complete. Crews will finish final touch-ups of the fill layers on top of each of the 11 submerged tunnel elements and will then demobilize equipment.
Portsmouth and Norfolk Approaches
At the Portsmouth Approach, crews are restoring the Virginia Port Authority roadways in several locations. The Project team is also focused on installing electrical and mechanical equipment at the Portsmouth Control Building.
Work at the Norfolk Approach continues at the crossover section, which will provide a connection between the eastbound and westbound lanes of U.S. 58.
Crews work on the new tide gate at the Norfolk Approach.
The tide gate at the new Midtown Tunnel is now installed – crews finished the work earlier this month after the gate arrived from the west coast in November. It was lowered into place to verify the fit and raised up to sit on the fire door panel in the upper chamber of the tide gate building. It is temporarily sitting on the fire panel door and can be lowered in order to protect the tunnel from tidal surge and flooding. Crews will install the mechanical equipment that will raise and lower the gate in place over the next few months as the building walls are completed.
Learn more about the construction of the new tunnel on our Midtown Tunnel page.
I-264 Downtown Tunnel Rehabilitation
The I-264 Downtown Tunnel is looking brighter these days with new LED lights and message signs.
Rehabilitation work on the I-264 East and West Downtown Tunnel is nearing completion. Crews have finished all work inside the tunnels with only minor work left on the new Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) at the approaches. The ITS system features closed-circuit cameras with Automated Incident Detection (AID) capability to expedite incident response, updated lane use signals above the roadway, and Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) inside the tunnel.
For more information about tunnel rehabilitation, including current closures and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Rehabilitation page.
Martin Luther King (MLK) Extension
Crews installed the 145,000-pound pedestrian bridge over the interstate near Frederick Boulevard this month.
Earlier this month, the Project team successfully replaced the Interstate 264 (I-264) pedestrian bridge near Frederick Boulevard in Portsmouth. The work required a full overnight interstate closure between Frederick and Portsmouth boulevards in order for crews to safely install and place the new structure.
The new bridge – measuring 152 feet long, nine feet wide and weighing almost 145,000 pounds – replaces an older, smaller bridge that was removed in March 2014 to allow for the widening of the interstate to accommodate the new MLK Extension.
The new structure will provide additional safety features for pedestrians, including increased
lighting and access. It is scheduled to open to the public next summer.
Work continues along the future mainline of the extension with the placement and grading of fill material and surcharge. The surcharge is used to remove any settlement at the abutment prior to construction. Architectural panels were installed near Queen Street and High Street, and the final mainline steel girders were set over Turnpike Road. Crews are now focused on deck construction.
Along the future MLK ramp locations, crews set concrete girders along I-264 and over Frederick Boulevard, with the largest piece measuring 139 feet long. The team is also busy constructing a noise wall along the interstate and widening the Des Moines Avenue bridge for a ramp tie-in to I-264 East.
Learn more on the MLK Page of DriveERT.com.