Elizabeth River Tunnels: News and Updates
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Volume 2, Issue 2 | December 2013
Elizabeth River Tunnels: News and Updates

Connections features updates to construction, traffic, community impacts, and other issues to keep you informed on the progress of the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project.

Construction Updates

Construction is in full swing on the ground, in the water, and at the dry dock to deliver a new Hampton Roads transportation facility.
Downtown Tunnel Westbound Rehabilitation 

Fire board installation wrapped up in early December, completing the tunnel’s new fire protection coverage. Upper air duct repairs also finished in early December.
Repairs to the concrete barriers at the base of the tunnel walls continue in the right travel lane.
Conduit installation continues on the left lane wall. Anchors for the conduit rack have been installed and tested. Cabinet installation began in November.
Replacement of damaged tiles is 50 percent complete (see right picture).
Up next, crews are preparing to install electrical components for the new ventilation system and improved lighting.

Tunnel Fabrication 

Fabrication of the first six of 11 tunnel elements for the new Midtown Tunnel progresses at Sparrows Point, MD.
The concrete work for Elements 1, 2, and 3 is complete. Element 4 will be finished before the end of the month, and Elements 5 and 6 in early 2014. Each element will be outfitted with hardware, bulkheads to make them airtight, and ballast tanks to submerge them in the Elizabeth River. They will be floated out of dry-dock and towed to Hampton Roads down the Chesapeake Bay this spring to begin installation.
Production of the remaining five elements begins after the others are floated out.

Norfolk and Portsmouth Approaches

The driving of pre-cast concrete piles began in mid-November on the Norfolk approach to the new tunnel. Excavation and sheet pile driving to support the excavation continue.
On the Portsmouth approach, the “support of excavation” work is done for the first section, allowing concrete to be poured for the “plug,” the first layer to go down under the roadway. Excavation continues for the remainder of the approach.

Marine Work
Mass dredging began last month and pile driving continues in the Elizabeth River in preparation for tunnel placement. Most of the dredge material will be unloaded in an approved location in the Atlantic Ocean.
Martin Luther King (MLK) Freeway Extension
Construction activities began last month, starting with the permanent closure of the Interstate 264 (I-264) East Des Moines Ave. off-ramp on Nov. 21. Motorists are rerouted to the Effingham St. off-ramp. The federally-approved closure is necessary to make the new MLK connector ramps function safely and efficiently.
Additionally, the right lane and shoulder on I-264 eastbound were closed from just east of Portsmouth Blvd. to just east of Des Moines Ave. It will reopen in about 17 months.
Along the path of the MLK Extension, activities include: razing of buildings, clearing of right-of-way, relocation of utilities, and construction of stormwater retention ponds.

Behind the Scenes - Control Room

Perched atop the entrances to the tunnels are buildings that function as the nerve centers for tunnel operations, yet remain quite invisible to motorists who unknowingly rely on them on each and every trip through the tubes.
It’s the responsibility of the Control Room operators to keep traffic moving safely and efficiently and to respond quickly with a fix when it doesn’t. Among other duties, they monitor traffic conditions, dispatch personnel to incidents, and activate traffic signals/overhead message signs.
“The Control Rooms are the collectors of all traffic-related information,” said Ryan McLane, Operations Manager. “Everything is funneled through those rooms—disabled vehicles, vehicle crashes, weather issues, roadway problems.”
The pace of the work, at times, can be stressful.
“Things can go from 0 to 100 miles an hour real quick,” he said. “That’s what people like about the work. No day is the same.”
Control Room operators monitor traffic through a bank of cameras that cover the entire stretch of roadway. They detect incidents; respond by dispatching help, whether it’s a tow truck, safety service patroller, or the police/fire/rescue; manage the ensuing backups; and reopen lanes when it’s safe to do so.
As part of the rehabilitation of the tunnels, new traffic cameras will be installed with more capabilities such as panning and zooming.
Not only do operators manage vehicles inside the tunnel, but all the mechanical systems behind the tunnel walls as well. These systems include power, ventilation, and pump controls. If an alarm on the monitoring panel sounds detecting a possible problem, they alert the appropriate personnel to inspect and, if necessary, repair any malfunctions.
Outside the tunnels, the Control Room operators work closely with field personnel managing over-height trucks. If a truck activates an over-height sensor, the operators and the field staff work together to ensure the truck is stopped and measured before passage through the tunnel.
“Safety is at the forefront of everything we do,” McLane said.
Someone watches over tunnel activities 24/7.
At the Downtown Tunnel, two operators are on duty, and at the Midtown Tunnel, there are one or two, depending on the shift. Once the new technology is installed and the second Midtown Tunnel comes on line, the two Control Rooms will be consolidated at the Downtown Tunnel, with the Midtown facility serving as a backup if needed.

Employee Spotlight – Mike Hicks

After 30 years with Norfolk Fire-Rescue, Mike Hicks joined Elizabeth River Tunnels as a traffic management supervisor with a fresh perspective. Mike worked as a fireman, paramedic, and public information officer with Norfolk’s fire and rescue department, retiring as a Captain on October 1.

Mike Hicks joined the ERC team after more than 30 years of service with Norfolk Fire-Rescue.

On October 2, Mike began using his vast expertise and contacts in public safety to improve emergency response times in the tunnels and to implement the National Incident Response System.
In his new position, Mike is responsible for 32 people who work in traffic control and with the safety service patrol.
The 54-year-old Virginia Beach resident said the toughest part of transitioning to the “civilian side” is not jumping in, rolling up his sleeves and helping his former fire and rescue colleagues deal with incidents in the tunnels.

DBE/SWaM Featured Business -- Mid-Atlantic Pavement Markings

It’s no secret that the past several years have been hard economically, and small businesses are among the hardest hit. State and federal initiatives such as the DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) and SWaM (Small, Women and Minority) programs were designed to provide more opportunities for small businesses. Like any state or federal contract, ERC and SKW are committed to hiring DBE/SWaM firms.
These programs encourage ERC and SKW to do business with companies that historically have been disadvantaged, providing them the experience and resources to help grow their business—and it is working.
Mid-Atlantic Pavement Markings (MAPMS), a DBE company based in Chesapeake, is one of the local small businesses working on the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project. MAPMS was initially given the opportunity on a small project to evaluate performance. MAPMS proved to be both reliable and competitive, and by the end of the year had worked on seven separate jobs for the Project, ranging from crack sealing and pavement striping to bollard installation. MAPMS president Leslie Herring estimates that one-quarter of their new business in 2013 relates to the ERT Project. As a true small business with only five employees, each opportunity has a significant impact to MAPMS, and ERC is proud to be able to share in that success.

The good news doesn’t stop there. The Elizabeth River Tunnels Project has engaged over 100 local small businesses and over 200 DBE/SWaM companies. To learn more about doing business with the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project, please email procurement@ERCopco.com

ERC Supports the Hampton Roads Community

Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) is committed to operating responsibly within the Hampton Roads community and strives to be active in the communities in which it operates. ERC positively contributes to the local communities of Norfolk and Portsmouth through outreach, sponsorships, and charitable donations in four main areas: education, youth development, environment, and health and wellness.
Boo-Yah! 5K

The ERC Team all dressed up for Portsmouth's Boo-Yah! 5K in October.

Elizabeth River Crossings participated in the annual Boo-Yah! 5K event in the Port Norfolk neighborhood of Portsmouth in October. Race participants were encouraged to dress in costume. Proceeds from the race went to the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia and the Port Norfolk Civic League.
Mayflower Marathon

ERC at the annual Mayflower Marathon, which provides meals to Hampton Roads families.

ERC team members rolled up their sleeves and pitched in to work a shift to help the Foodbank of Southeastern Virginia at the 17th Annual Mayflower Marathon. This year’s food drive collected a record 577,678 meals for families in need in Hampton Roads. To learn more about the work of the Foodbank, visit www.foodbankonline.org.
2013 Phoenix Awards
ERC proudly served as the Children’s Champion Sponsor for the ForKids’ 2013 Phoenix Awards, honoring and recognizing individuals who have shown remarkable tenacity and courage to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty. This year’s winners are Jeannette Rowe and Lacy Carruth. To learn more about ForKids and the awardees’ amazing stories, visit www.homesforkids.org.
For information on ERC’s charitable giving philosophy and guidelines, please visit DriveERT.com

Safety Tip: Prevent Hydroplaning

Hydroplaning and skidding in wet weather can cause a complete loss of steering and braking control. It can happen in an instant and can be a frightening experience for everyone in the vehicle. Follow these steps while driving in wet conditions to help keep you accident-free:
  1. Hydroplaning is when a tire loses contact with the road and skims on water. As a tire wears, its tread becomes shallower and has less resistance to hydroplaning. To avoid this, keep your tires inflated correctly and maintain good tire tread. Don't put off replacing worn tires.
  2. Avoid large puddles in the road and clogged roadway drains. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.
  3. If you find yourself hydroplaning, don’t brake or turn suddenly as this could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas pedal to regain control of the vehicle. If you need to brake, do so gently with light pumping actions.
  4. You can help prevent skidding by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid.
  5. If your car does start to skid, ease your foot off the gas and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using the brakes. If your car has an Automatic Breaking System (ABS), brake firmly as you steer into the skid.

Connect With Us

Project information is available at www.DriveERT.com. For questions or comments, contact us at info@DriveERT.com.

To report an incident or maintenance issue at the Elizabeth River Tunnels, call our 24-hour hotline at 1-855-ERT-ROAD (1-855-378-7623). 
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