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Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel's construction project experiencing two year delay

Posted at 12:31 PM, Nov 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 17:36:15-05

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - It is an engineering wonder of the world. Completed in 1964 – The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is a staple for East Coast travelers.

"We [see] 11,000 vehicles a day or about 4 million cars a year," said Tom Anderson, Director of Finance with the CBBT.

Heading northbound, travelers have to enter tunnels with just one lane in each direction.

"It creates a lot of headaches and it's a safety issue for drivers as you can imagine," said Anderson.

So 30 years ago they started the preliminary process for the Parallel Tunnel at Thimble Shoals Channel. The goal to create a new tunnel to carry two lanes of traffic south bound and the existing tunnel two lanes of traffic northbound.

"We need this because if something happens an accident or backup, its a seven hour detour to go the other way around that's not really viable," Anderson said.

Crews broke ground in 2017 on the project with a price tag of around $800 million. The completion date was set for 2022.

"The tunnel itself will be built with concrete rings using a tunnel boring machine," he said.

Since then, they’ve hit a roadblock. Huge granite boulders armoring the man made islands underwater are quite literally set in stone.

"So they way they built it was to make a ring of rocks on the bay bottom and fill it and another ring and so on and so forth," said Anderson. "They have been more challenging to deal with than what everyone anticipated."

Another delay is due to a subcontractor letting a permit lapse that allowed crews to do work in the water to build a rock berm off the island.

Anderson says a tunnel boring machine should help break through the problems, but now the delay will be about two years with a new completion date of 2024.