Elizabeth River Crossing: News and Updates

Volume 3, Issue 2 | December 2014
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. 

Travel Impacts

The Downtown Tunnel westbound to Portsmouth closure schedule is as follows through the first week of Jan.:
  • Full direction closures: No closures scheduled.
  • Single lane closures: No closures scheduled.
The Downtown Tunnel eastbound to Norfolk closure schedule is as follows through the first week of Jan.:
  • Full direction closures:
    • Dec. 26-29: No scheduled closures.
    • Jan. 2-5: Closed Friday at 8 p.m. until Monday at 5 a.m.
Single lane closures: single lane closures may occur nightly Sunday through Thursday (excluding holidays), from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. the next morning. 

Visit the Travel Impacts page for more information.

New Toll Rates Go into Effect January 1st 

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 Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC).

The E-ZPass toll rates at the Downtown and Midtown tunnels for 2015 are as follows:

Passenger Vehicles (two axles, including motorcycles)
  • Off-Peak Period: $1.00
  • Peak Period: $1.25
Heavy Vehicles (three or more axles, includes cars with trailers)
  • Off-Peak Period: $3.00
  • Peak Period: $5.00
For Pay by Plate motorists (without an E-ZPass transponder), the processing fee will increase to $2.00 per trip, in addition to the toll.

View the Toll Rates page for more information.

Education is Key to ERC

ERC continues in its efforts to make a positive difference in the Hampton Roads community, especially in Portsmouth and Norfolk, the cities that ERC calls home. With education, youth development, health and wellness and the environment as primary areas of focus for charitable donations, ERC strives to be a good neighbor, giving time and money to help improve the lives of those in need.
In November, ERC renewed its support of two very worthy education organizations: The Norfolk Education Foundation and the Portsmouth Schools Foundation. Both of these foundations act as fundraising arms for their respective school divisions, helping to drive each school division’s goals and initiatives.
This year, ERC designated its Portsmouth Schools Foundation donation to their Innovator Grant program. The program rewards teachers who have developed innovative classroom strategies and supports those who like to try those practices in their own classrooms. It fosters new learning opportunities for students by helping teachers learn from each other.
Also within the area of education, ERC was proud to sponsor the Portsmouth Partnership’s “Portsmouth Flavor!” event benefiting the Portsmouth Redevelopment and Housing Association Education Foundation.
And, now in its third year, ERC continues to offer its Good Citizen Scholarships to Portsmouth and Norfolk high school seniors. This scholarship is designed to commend and reward those students who consistently reflect excellence in character and have demonstrated their leadership skills by making positive contributions to their school and community. The award provides one graduating senior from each of the Portsmouth and Norfolk high schools $1,500 to be used for any college, trade school or post-secondary institution expense. 

Curtis Contracting: A Certified Commonwealth of Virginia Small Business 

You may not immediately recognize the name, but Curtis Contracting has been quietly building road and infrastructure projects throughout Hampton Roads and Virginia for nearly three decades.

“We stay out of the limelight, but we get the work done,” said Robert Ackley, a project manager.

Curtis is building the new ramp configuration on Interstate 264 and road connections for the Martin Luther King (MLK) Extension project. Most of the construction you see from I-264 south and east of Columbus Avenue is the work of Curtis. Headquartered in West Point, Virginia, the builder is certified as a small business and is one of two primary contractors on the Martin Luther King Extension Project.

Nearly 100 percent of the MLK work is being performed by certified DBE (Disadvantaged Business Enterprise) and SWaM (Small Woman- and Minority-owned) businesses in Virginia.

Curtis has about 120 people on the Project each day, including its subcontractors.

Robert Ackley, Curtis’s project manager on MLK, said it’s one of the company’s larger projects. While Curtis may have a few large jobs, Ackley said MLK is definitely the most complex – working on both interstate and city streets, building bridges, ramps, retaining walls and even a bridge for pedestrians. “There’s a lot of different parts and pieces, so it can be a bit challenging,” he said.

Curtis Contracting primarily works on projects spanning from Richmond to Hampton Roads. This Class “A” contracting company was formed in 1985 by Virginia F. “Betty” Curtis and focuses on design-build construction and general contracting for building, highway and infrastructure improvements for federal, state, and local jurisdictions.

Currently, Curtis has more than 200 employees, including project managers, project engineers, superintendents, carpenters, equipment operators, truck drivers and laborers.

In the past 29 years, the firm has completed more than $250 million in federal, state, county and local construction projects. The company’s first asphalt plant opened in Ivor this past April and serves the Richmond and Hampton Roads markets.

Locally, Curtis Contracting is also constructing the VDOT-managed I-264 Pavement Rehabilitation Project in Virginia Beach and has performed various highway construction and rehabilitation projects along the I-64, I-664 and I-264 corridors.

On-the-Job Training

Melvin Lowe completes On-the-Job Training on Dec. 1, along with seven other graduates of the program (right).

This summer, Melvin Lowe Jr. spotted a SKW deckhand job listing online. Lowe has past construction experience and thought the job might be a good fit, so he headed to SKW’s office at the ERT Project to fill out an application on site.
“I told them the general construction work I had done before,” Lowe said. “They sent me to Vince.”
Vincent Powell is SKW’s Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) Compliance Manager for its On-the-Job Training (OJT) Program. Among Powell’s responsibilities, he connects promising applicants like Lowe with the right OJT opportunity.
Shortly after applying, Lowe entered the OJT program and completed 10 ½ weeks of training. On Monday, Dec. 1, at SKW’s monthly Mass Safety Meeting, Lowe and seven other OJT employees graduated and were presented with certificates.
The OJT Program, which operates year-round, offers apprenticeship and training programs for a wide range of positions in an effort to move veterans, women, minorities and economically disadvantaged individuals into journey-level positions for the ERT Project. The program ensures that a competent workforce is ready to meet local ERT construction needs. Current Project employees can also take advantage of the OJT Program if they are looking to move into a different position.
“It’s great to see employees grow,” said Powell, who presented the certificates to the graduates. “They will often start with little to no experience and we see them grow into and embrace their role.”
Lowe now spends his days working on the elements for the new Midtown Tunnel. He is looking forward to his future at ERT.
“I’m working with guys with years of experience,” he said. “This is a program that lets you know you can advance.” 


Lending a Helping Hand: New Paving in Portsmouth

Newly paved road in Portsmouth as part of a collaboration between the city of Portsmouth, VDOT and ERT.
Earlier this fall, the ERT Operations and Maintenance (O & M) team noticed the Court Street and Effingham Street ramps near the Downtown Tunnel required some additional attention. The ramp pavement was crumbling, littered with potholes and in severe need of repaving; however, the area was outside of ERT’s operational boundaries to address. The O & M team decided quick coordination with the City of Portsmouth and VDOT was needed in order to fix the ramps, regardless of whose jurisdiction the area fell. ERT hired a paving contractor at Project expense to mill out two inches of dilapidated pavement and repave the ramps with new asphalt beyond ERT operational boundaries and into City of Portsmouth property.
At the same time, ERT crews installed added safety enhancements at the ramps near the Downtown Tunnel on the Portsmouth side. Improved pavement striping, freshly painted curbs, and newly installed traffic delineators eastbound were the latest in ERT’s efforts to improve the safety of ramps near the mouth of the Downtown Tunnel.
All of these improvement efforts are a part of ERT’s commitment to service and safety for those
who use the Elizabeth River Tunnels and associated roadways. Now it’s smooth sailing for motorists on freshly laid asphalt traveling between Downtown Portsmouth and the Downtown Tunnel.


Employee Spotlight: Angelique Gatling

“I always wanted to join a team and be a part of something from the beginning to the end.” That’s exactly what Angelique Gatling is doing.

The Suffolk native and resident is an electrician who started with ERC on Day 1 to maintain the Downtown and Midtown tunnels’ electrical systems. “This opportunity came up for me and it’s quite perfect,” Angelique said. “It’s real exciting.”

Since joining ERC, she studied for and passed the journeyman electrician’s license exam. She also represents the electrical department on the tunnel safety committee.

Brian Murphy, Angelique’s supervisor said, “She’s one of my go-to people.”

She’s also the only woman in the maintenance department. “I’m pretty much a competitive person,” Angelique said. “Working with men you have to be quite determined and competitive. All my life I’ve had men directing me - men like my dad and my coaches. The strong role models in my life are men. I’m used to working with them.”

Construction Updates

Tunnel Fabrication

Final work on Elements 8 and 9 at Sparrows Point.

Midtown Tunnel construction continues at Sparrows Point, Maryland and at the project sites in Portsmouth and Norfolk. At Sparrows Point, fabrication of Elements 7-11 is 97 percent complete. Crews have finished all structural concrete pours for Elements 7, 8, 10, and 11. Final structural concrete work on Element 9’s doghouse (the element’s outer walls and roof) is scheduled for later this month. Interior outfitting of drainage pipes, bulkheads, and ballast tanks with piping, pumps, and controls continues on all five of the remaining elements in preparation for float out to the Project site next spring.
Elements 1, 2, and 3 have been immersed and are in their final location on the Portsmouth side of the Elizabeth River. Crews are now preparing Element 4, the first element to be placed outside of the slot and into the Elizabeth River, for immersion in late January. To prepare for this placement, the lay barge (the vessel that lowers the elements in place) had to undergo upgrades and testing. Now that the lay barge is ready, crews will transfer the screed sled from the slot to the screed barge to continue screeding the bottom of the trench in preparation for immersion of the remaining elements. “Screeding” refers to the process of leveling the material which serves as the foundation for the tunnel elements on the bottom of the river. The screed blade hangs by cables underneath the sled and levels the foundation to the designated grade of the tunnel.
Learn more about the construction of the new tunnel on our Midtown Tunnel page.
View photos of the immersion of Element 1 at the Project site in Portsmouth on our Flickr page.

Portsmouth and Norfolk Approaches

At the Portsmouth cut-and-cover section, the Project team is almost finished waterproofing and adding fill material behind the walls and to the roof section. The first bulkhead (the waterproof barriers found at the end of each tunnel element) at the Portsmouth cut-and-cover has been removed, with the second one scheduled for removal by the end of the year. Final preparations are being made to permanently seal the joints.
Concrete work in the Portsmouth boat section is complete, allowing construction equipment and personnel to enter the tunnel from the roadway.

At the Norfolk approach, three additional walls in the cut-and-cover section are complete. Crews continue construction of two storm water pump stations. The first station is known as the Hampton Blvd. Pump station and sits adjacent to the boat section of the new Midtown Tunnel. This station will collect rain water that falls onto the roadway in the tunnel boat section and pump it out. The second station will be constructed adjacent to existing facilities and will handle drainage in the approach area to the Midtown Tunnels.

I-264 Downtown Tunnel Rehabilitation 

Promat fireproofing is installed on the ceiling of the I-264 East Downtown Tunnel.

The new ventilation and traffic management systems in the I-264 West Downtown Tunnel are nearing completion as they undergo final testing. Several roadway rehabilitation items are scheduled for completion in the spring prior to repaving the tunnel. 
Rehabilitation of the I-264 East Downtown Tunnel continues with installation of wire conduits, electrical cabinets, and Promat fireproofing.
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

Work on the Martin Luther King (MLK) Extension is extending north of Turnpike Road and onto the CSX railroad property as construction progresses.
North of Turnpike Road, test piles have been completed for the new elevated MLK Extension. Construction of the new MacArthur Avenue connector to Queen Street is underway. Drainage is under construction and will be completed in spring 2015.
Pile driving has also begun for the first two piers on the CSX property.
Work continues throughout the project areas. At the Interstate 264 (I-264) interchange, caps and columns can be seen rising from the ground in preparation for new bridges and ramps. Pier substructure construction for the main bridge is complete south of I-264 and continues north of I-264. Steel girder placement on the first ramp will begin this winter, and then girder placement moves onto the bridge over I-264. Pile driving, retaining wall construction, and embankment widening continues at the other ramps and the MLK mainline.
On the other end of the Project at the London Boulevard interchange, the reconstruction of the US 58 South ramp onto London Boulevard has been completed and the roadway was opened to traffic in October. The final asphalt will be applied at the end of construction. Construction continues on the temporary ramp to US 58 North and the MLK north section. Access to High Street directly from US 58 has been permanently closed.
To accommodate construction and future traffic on the MLK Extension, several ramps and roads have been permanently or temporarily closed.
Permanent closures include:
  • I-264 East Des Moines Avenue off-ramp
  • I-264 West South Street on-ramp
  • Harbor Drive
Temporary closures include:
  • I-264 East Frederick Boulevard off-ramp
  • Portions of Trexler Avenue, King Street, County Street, and Meander Road
  • One lane on either side of I-264 near Frederick Boulevard has been closed for construction
  • Intermittent closures of Turnpike Road between Confederate and Constitution Avenues
Motorists are advised to follow the signed detours in the City of Portsmouth to navigate around the closures.
Nearly 100 percent of the MLK work is being performed by DBE/SWaM businesses. Construction continues through December 2016.
Learn more on the MLK Page of DriveERT.com.

Connect With Us

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