'Mary the Tunnel Boring Machine' makes its debut at tunnel expansion ceremony

Posted at 5:28 PM, Dec 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-14 23:33:46-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. — A milestone in the HRBT Expansion Project: A new piece of equipment arrived Tuesday to help in building the new tunnels that are a huge part of the project.

Traffic, frustration and tunnel backups will be a thing of the past, according to city leaders. Of course, that is expected to happen in 2025, when the project is expected to be complete.

"The HRBT project has been a traffic nightmare for years. This is going to provide needed relief at that facility," Jim Utterback, project director of the HRBT Expansion Project, said.

"Mary the Tunnel Boring Machine" is named after NASA Langley scientist Mary Jackson of "Hidden Figures" fame.It will be used to construct the new tunnels. Virginia Department of Transportation leaders said this is the largest highway project in Virginia history, adding two new tunnels and four additional lanes.

"They'll carry traffic eastbound, so the existing tunnels that are currently eastbound will turn westbound, and the current existing tunnels will go westbound," said Utterback.

With the new project, you will essentially have four lanes in each direction. One Chesapeake resident said he's happy city leaders are doing something to ease traffic.

"I'm excited about it because you can get there and back quicker," said Calvin Sears, a Chesapeake resident.

Sears tells News 3 he can get from Chesapeake to the Peninsula quicker. But city leaders said they hope this project will drive businesses to the area.

"It will keep us competitive at a very global market that is driving businesses currently through Virginia, which we believe will drive businesses through Virginia for the next five years," said Stephen Edwards, Virginia Port Authority CEO/executive director.

The $3.8 billion project is set to be complete by November 2025.

Related: Looking at the HRBT Expansion Project from a new perspective