Friday, June 2, 2023

HRBT Expansion Project Making Strides

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HAMPTON – For the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) project, it’s full-bore ahead in every sense of the word.

Ryan Banas, the project director for the HRBT expansion, provided an update on the progress Wednesday, May 24 at an event sponsored by the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. The event was held at The Chamberlin on Fort Monroe.

“We are more than 100 feet underway,” he said of the tunnel boring machine named “Mary” in honor of Mary Jackson of “Hidden Figures” fame.

That 100 feet represents about 1.4 percent of the scheduled drilling for the new tunnel.

“I know that’s not all that impressive, but we are going. We’re mining. We’re building,” Banas said.

The contract for the project was awarded in April 2019, with a $3.9 billion price tag.

“I’m proud to say we are still on that budget today,” Banas said.

The project is the largest in state history and is the first bored tunnel for the Virginia Department of Transportation. It’s just the fourth bored tunnel for vehicular traffic in the United States. When completed, which is scheduled for spring 2027, there will be four lanes of traffic in each direction instead of two.

Initially, the target completion date was fall 2025, but Banas said the new timeline is no cause for concern.

“Normal challenges that we experience in a job of this magnitude,” he said of the reasons behind the pushback. “Remember, tunnel boring has not been done in the United States for regular tunnels very often.”

With the magnitude and complexity of the project, there are a lot of moving parts, and, as often is the case in construction, things take longer than anticipated.

“It’s really come down to the regular nuts-and-bolts execution of designing construction,” he said.

And with no benchmarks for jobs similar to this in Hampton Roads, it’s harder to make accurate predictions.

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