For the second time this year, a critical stage of our Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project in Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia has hit a deadline early, this time opening the second lane of the newly-built Midtown Tunnel (MTT) to traffic on Friday, August 26, a full four months ahead of schedule. This follows the opening of the first lane to traffic back in June, six months early.
“It encourages the movement of goods and services and economic development. And let’s be clear, that’s why we build these transportation assets is for economic development,” said Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Lane.
It’s also another victory for the public private partnership (P3) model, in which private developers and operators invest their own equity – alongside government – to finance, design, construct, operate and maintain critical infrastructure projects for the public good. The $2.1 billion ERT project is Skanska’s first major infrastructure P3 in the U.S., alongside the I4 Ultimate in Florida and New York’s LaGuardia Airport Central Terminal.
Project benefits at ERT are numerous: drivers will enjoy reduced emissions and congestion, as well as shave as much as 30 minutes a day off their average round trip commute. For more on the benefits of P3, check out our previous blog post here.
Improved safety features are also a key element in the MTT’s design. For example, the tunnel has a unique, pressurized emergency exit tunnel that allows people to escape the tunnel if needed.
“If an event happened in the tunnel – smoke, fire, if there was an accident – and you couldn’t get out of the tunnel in your vehicle, you could get out of your vehicle, and you can safely [leave] the tunnel,” said Wade Watson, project director for SKW Constructors, ERT’s design-build joint venture partnership of Skanska, Kiewit, and Weeks Marine.
The ERT project is divided into four sections:
• Rehabilitation, life-safety improvements, and maintenance of the existing westbound and eastbound Downtown Tunnels (completed in August 2016) and the existing (now eastbound) Midtown Tunnel (projected for completion May 2018);
• Construction of a new two-lane, unidirectional Midtown Tunnel adjacent to the existing Midtown Tunnel under the Elizabeth River (opened to one lane of westbound traffic in June 2016, and opened to both lanes of traffic in August 2016);
• Interchange modifications at Brambleton Avenue and Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk at the approach of the new Midtown Tunnel and the exit of the existing Midtown Tunnel (completed in August 2016);
• The extension of the Martin Luther King Expressway from London Boulevard to Interstate 264 in Portsmouth (projected for completion in December 2016).
Full completion on the project is expected in August 2018.
Click here for more on how this amazing tunnel was built.