Volume 4, Issue 4 | June 2016
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.
I-264 East: Single lane closure near Effingham Street Thursday and Friday, July 7 and 8 from 8 p.m. each night until 5 a.m. the following morning.
U.S. 58 East: Full weekend tunnel closure from Friday, July 8 at 8 p.m. through Monday, July 11 at 5 a.m.
I-264 East/West: Single lane closure in each direction between Effingham Street and Frederick Boulevard Tuesday through Friday, July 5-8 from 8 p.m. each night until 5 a.m. the following morning.
Frederick Boulevard Southbound: Full closure Tuesday and Wednesday, July 5 and 6 from 8 p.m. each night until 5 a.m. the following morning.
Frederick Boulevard Northbound: Full closure Thursday and Friday, July 7 and 8 from 8 p.m. each night until 5 a.m. the following morning.
Visit the Travel Impacts page for more information.
New Midtown Tunnel opens while original undergoes rehabilitation
June 17 was a big day for the Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project and its users — one lane of the new U.S. 58 West Midtown Tunnel opened for travel, a full six months ahead of schedule.
The early opening is a testament to the collaboration within the Public-Private Partnership consisting of Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC), SKW Constructors (a joint venture of Skanska USA, Kiewit Construction and Weeks Marine, Inc.) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
“Reaching this milestone months ahead of schedule accelerates our path to a more connected Hampton Roads and a better quality of life,” said ERC CEO, Greg Woodsmall.
For a few weeks prior to opening to traffic, the New Midtown Tunnel underwent a safety inspection. Then that Friday afternoon crews shifted the single lane of westbound traffic, from Norfolk to Portsmouth, into the new tube.
The original Midtown Tunnel, which opened in 1962, continues to carry eastbound traffic in a single lane from Portsmouth to Norfolk.
“The single lane configuration in each tube makes it possible to commence rehabilitation of the original Midtown Tunnel ahead of schedule while finishing minor punch list work on the new tunnel and tunnel support buildings. The rehabilitation will be almost identical to the work done on the Downtown Tunnels,” said Dan Norman, ERC Construction Director.
The improvements motorists can expect will include improved lighting, new jet fan ventilation, CCTV cameras, structural concrete repairs, tile replacement, and fireproof insulation for the tunnel ceiling, among other fire and life safety improvements. The Downtown Tunnel rehab is nearly complete, with crews now finalizing punch list items.
In order to advance completion of both Midtown tunnels, construction will continue in one lane of each tube. This saves time in the construction schedule and spares drivers the inconvenience of excessive closures, Norman said.
Work to complete the new Midtown Tunnel is scheduled to wrap in early August thereby opening two lanes of westbound traffic to Portsmouth.
“Opening this tunnel ahead of schedule is a testament to the hard work and dedication of the thousands of people involved - including all stakeholders, the local communities, designers, subcontractors, vendors and crews,” said Wade Watson, SKW Project Director.
Meanwhile, the focus in the original tube now is to progress the work efficiently and be able to open the second eastbound lane for traffic from Portsmouth to Norfolk later this year. Once both lanes are open, periodic night and weekend closures will be required to finish by the summer of 2017.
“VDOT, ERC and SKW are committed to completing the next major project milestones: opening of the second lane in the Westbound Midtown Tunnel and tying it into the new MLK Extension, ahead of schedule,” said VDOT Commissioner Charlie Kilpatrick. “The entire Elizabeth River Tunnels Project will enhance travel time reliability, and improve safety, connectivity and commerce in Hampton Roads.”
Portsmouth Students Engineer Bridges
Among the testing and studying taking place at Douglass Park Elementary School, a group of over 200 students spent a sunny afternoon learning bridge building basics from the pros. Elizabeth River Tunnels Project and Virginia Department of Transportation engineers volunteered their time to share their knowledge and engage with the community to celebrate the official opening of the new pedestrian bridge over I-264.
The original pedestrian bridge, spanning over I-264 near Frederick Boulevard, was removed in March 2014 to allow for interstate widening as part of the new MLK Extension. The new bridge structure is wider and longer than the previous raised walkway, and will provide additional safety features for pedestrians, including increased lighting and access. The new pedestrian bridge has an increased life span and satisfies current federal safety regulations for pedestrian structures. ADA compliant alternative routes will remain in service, providing a safe alternative for pedestrians with that need. The bridge also has aesthetically pleasing features meant to enhance the quality of life for the communities it serves.
The new pedestrian bridge is a truss style bridge, different from the simple beam bridge that was in place before it. Students learned about different styles of bridges including, arch, cable stay and suspension bridges. In their activities students were able to experience firsthand the forces at work in each of these bridges. The children were encouraged to participate by sharing their knowledge and by volunteering for some activities and pairing up for others in order to reinforce their understanding. The students then topped off their experience with a walk across the new I-264 pedestrian bridge.
Portsmouth and Norfolk Approaches
On the Portsmouth approach, asphalt paving operations were completed this month and pavement markings were installed in anticipation of the new tunnel opening. Preparations are underway for grading and paving the crossover between US 58E and US 58W now that traffic is placed into the new tunnel.
On the Norfolk approach, electrical and communications lines have been pulled throughout the approach and boat section for signals, lights, overhead detectors, and the new Inspection Station 12. Light poles are mounted on the boat walls and throughout the approach roads.
The Elizabeth River Trail bridge deck across the existing Midtown Tunnel Boat section was completed early in June during a closure of the Existing MTT.
Learn more about the construction of the new tunnel on our Midtown Tunnel page.
I-264 Downtown Tunnel Rehabilitation
Downtown Tunnel rehabilitation is nearing it's end. Final inspections are being conducted by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Once the inspections are complete, the Downtown will be remain open in all lanes with no additional construction related closures.
For more information about tunnel rehabilitation, including current closures and answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Rehabilitation page.
Martin Luther King Freeway (MLK) Extension Construction Progresses
Overall deck progress is at 92% with over 90 of the 103 decks placed to date. With decks nearing completion work is transitioning to slip forming barrier, tooth and expansion joint, and deck grinding and grooving. It is now possible to walk from one end of the Project to the other.
Partnership Spotlight: MJ Synergy Group, LLC
MJ Synergy Group, LLC was recently awarded DBE Consultant of the Year on December 10, 2015 at the DBE Training Symposium held in Williamsburg, VA. The award recognizes an outstanding DBE consultant who has developed a positive reputation in the industry for professionalism, integrity in work standards and performance, exhibits a commitment to business development and upholds the spirit and principles of the DBE program.
Angela Buckner, CEO of MJ Synergy, said this award was unexpected, but a pleasant surprise. Her firm’s expertise in multi-disciplinary work, and ability to integrate several components seamlessly into a project, has made MJ Synergy a valuable partner and helped establish public works projects as a niche market for MJ Synergy. The company continues to expand and currently is working on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, providing inspection and project management responsibilities. In the last five years MJ Synergy has grown to employ VDOT-certified construction inspectors, project managers, CAT operators, civil engineers and a business development professional - nine people in all.
When asked about her future plans for the company, Ms. Buckner doesn’t hesitate. “I want to build on the DBE certification and become a recognized subject matter expert in roadwork project management. In addition, I want to continue development of work in the intelligence community.” She is also seeking additional certifications to shore up eligibility for more types of work.
When asked what she loves about her work, Ms. Buckner states, “What I find rewarding is the process of pulling the pieces of a project together to deliver a finished product.”
In terms of advice, Angela encourages entrepreneurs to “Believe in yourself, be prepared by getting the right credentials and be patient. Keep working at it.”
Employee Spotlight: Mike Burrows
After working the last 25 years in the manufacturing industry, Elizabeth River Crossing’s new Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) Manager Mike Burrows is excited make a connection with customers.
Burrows said the ERC job is an opportunity to “touch the end users of the product,” which was missing in previous positions. He said he’s eager to make an impact providing a safe environment for the drivers who drive through the tunnels as well as for ERC employees. “ERC employees doing their job safely in turn keeps the public safe,” he said.
Burrows arrived this week from Florida, where he was corporate EHS manager at a large international manufacturer of roofing and waterproofing products. He’s worked at several multinational corporations in the manufacturing and pharmaceutical packaging industries.
But he’s no stranger to Hampton Roads having served 23 years in active and reserve duty with the Navy. While he was never stationed here, he passed through on assignments.
In his spare time, he enjoys spending time with his wife, two daughters and two grandsons at the beach and other outdoor activities.