December 2020 Edition
A Message From the Project Director
Jim Utterback
As a most unusual and challenging 2020 ends, we have much to reflect upon, as well as successes to celebrate on the HRBT Expansion Project.

A project of this magnitude can only be made possible through regional cooperation. We are proud to have reached a momentous milestone on October 29 when we officially broke ground on the $3.8 billion expansion.
The HRBT Expansion Project has made significant progress over the past few months. The project recently received the necessary water quality and bridge permits. VDOT issued a Notice to Proceed to Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP), enabling full construction activities on the project.

Crews continue to prepare for the arrival of the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) in 2021 and they are working on expanding the existing North and South islands to accommodate new twin tunnels. Additionally, crews are mobilizing to begin work to widen the interstate in Norfolk and Hampton.

As construction progresses during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have also added additional safety protocols in accordance with CDC guidelines. This challenge has only reinforced our focus on safety, which remains our top priority. Through morning safety huddles, training and regularly scheduled meetings with first responders, safety is always first and foremost on the project.

I think I speak for everyone when I say we look forward to 2021, including more project successes.

Jim Utterback, Project Director
Up Close And Virtual
PICTURED ABOVE: Jim Utterback, HRBT Project Director being interviewed by Andy Fox of WAVY TV 10
Andy Fox of WAVY TV 10 joined HRBT Expansion Project Director Jim Utterback for a tour of the South Island and a conversation about the project’s progress. During the interview, Utterback provided the public with a rare look at the transformative transportation project, the massive equipment needed to deliver the new twin tunnels and eight lane bridge structure, as well a glimpse of the final product through a high-tech, virtual simulation video. Click here to view the three-part interview. 
Name that...Machine!
The competition was fierce (the best and brightest of Hampton Roads) and the stakes were high (bragging rights forever!) for the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) Naming contest. Middle school students in localities within the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC) district were invited to participate in the regional contest to name the TBM that will build the new twin tunnels. From fictitious characters to historic figures, the names submitted provide an array of options for the official name of the TBM.
Entries were received from both public and private schools on the Peninsula and Southside Hampton Roads. The creativity and enthusiasm was evident in the caliber of the submissions received.  The panel of expert judges certainly have their work cut out for them in choosing 1st, 2nd and 3rd place winners. Entries will be judged on (1) relevance to the project, (2) community relevance, (3) creativity and (4) presentation.
The winners will be announced in the spring of 2021. The first-place winner’s entry will be placed on the side of the TBM during its manufacturing in Germany. After the announcement, the TBM will be referenced by that name for the duration of the project. The TBM is a vital part of the HRBT Expansion Project which is the largest project in VDOT’s history. 
North Island Construction Activity
The North Island of the current Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel was built in the Hampton Roads Harbor when the first HRBT crossing was constructed in 1957. Made of sand fill with armor stone protection, the existing island measures about 1,500 feet long by 420 feet wide. To accommodate the construction of two new two-lane bored tunnels adjacent to the existing tunnels, the North Island must be widened westward for the new tunnels’ shaft and portal.  
Pictured above is the planned expansion of the North Island. The red line shows the perimeter of the planned westward island expansion. To accommodate the new tunnel shafts and portals, the island will be expanded by approximately 715,000 square feet.
Pictured above is the planned configuration of the expanded North Island. The shaded purple area denotes the island expansion. To the left of the expansion area, a new trestle will carry eastbound traffic from the Hampton shoreline to the entrance (portals) of the new eastbound tunnels.

HRCP construction activity to expand the North Island began in November with dredging and clearing in the footprint of the island expansion, and the removal/relocation of existing armor stone. The crane barges located to the left of the island (as pictured below) are performing the dredging and clearing work and the removal of existing armor stone. Construction activity will advance over the coming weeks to include the placement of new perimeter stone, the installation of abutment piles, and the installation of sheet piles. When the island expansion is complete, the island will be roughly twice the size of the current island.
PICTURED ABOVE: North Island expansion construction activity underway

Can't Help But Notice
PICTURED ABOVE: Cranes dot the waters edge near HRBT
Motorists cannot help but notice the proliferation of cranes and barges arriving in waters along the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel. They are performing important work that will support construction of the permanent trestle bridges to be built on both the Hampton and Norfolk sides of the HRBT.
PICTURED ABOVE:  54-inch test pile was carefully monitored during pile-driving to assess soil conditions and finalize design for the new trestle bridges
Most of the work is test pile driving to collect data, revealing how the 54" concrete cylinder piles interact with the variety of soil types across the harbor. This enables HRCP to finalize its design to select the right length for these pilings, which will support the new north and south trestle bridges.

On the Hampton side, near the North Island, a large crane hovers high overhead to remove existing armor stone to make room for the island expansion.

All of this work is in addition to the activity underway on the South Island (Norfolk side) where the walls are taking shape for a 65-foot pit will be excavated to receive the Tunnel Boring Machine for the new twin tunnels.

It’s progress in motion and there is much more to come!
PICTURED ABOVE:  Towering crane removes armor stone to prepare for North Island Expansion
Two HRBT Expansion Project Engineers Are Living Their Dreams
Bradley Weidenhammer, VDOT
PICTURED ABOVE: Bradley Weidenhammer, PE; Operations and Maintenance Mgr.-HRBT Expansion Project
Not everyone can pinpoint the moment their career dream was cast in stone. However, Bradley Weidenhammer can. The defining moment happened while on a family trip to Ocean City, Maryland and seeing the construction of the Roth Bridge over the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal in St. Georges, Delaware.

The cable-stayed engineering marvel caught his attention and Weidenhammer insists at that exact moment, “I knew I wanted to be an engineer.” Weidenhammer was equally determined to enroll at his first pick of colleges-Georgia Tech. So, he left his rural Pennsylvania roots for what he calls “the big city” to become a GT Yellow Jacket and study at an engineering powerhouse in downtown Atlanta.

At Georgia Tech, Bradley majored in civil engineering, and took advantage of the school's co-op program, which allowed him to intern with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).  Within three months of graduation, Bradley was hired into VDOT's Associate's program where he began a rotation to learn a variety of transportation skills.

Weidenhammer, a Professional Engineer and designated design-build professional, worked in VDOT's land development and transportation planning divisions in the Hampton Roads district for eight years before joining the Midtown Tunnel Project in 2011 as an engineer. On the new MTT project, he had oversight of traffic studies, maintenance of traffic plans, coordination of lane closures and ultimately closed out the project as a deputy project manager in 2016.

Immediately lured to the new HRBT Expansion Project, where he participated in early project development and earned the title of Operations and Maintenance Manager for what he calls a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” Weidenhammer considers himself “very fortunate” to have worked on two consecutive major tunnel projects. The current $3.8 billion project can seem like a major undertaking, even to someone with 17 years of engineering experience, but breaking it down into what he calls “small pieces” allows Weidenhammer to understand how everyone’s “small tasks add up to one big project.”

In 2025 when the project is scheduled for completion, his two small children will still only be seven and ten years old. While uncertain what the future holds when there is light at the end of the completed project, Weidenhammer is adamant that Virginia has proven “it can make things happen,” and he wants to be part of the next big project, even though he admits, “I don’t know what it will be yet.”

Megan Pym, HRCP
PICTURED ABOVE: Megan Pym, HRBT Project Manager for the North Island Reclamation
At slightly more than six feet, two inches tall, Megan Pym is easily noticed!
But then, the small town New York State native has been showered with attention since her early high school days when her athletic prowess, namely basketball, had Ivy League and other college recruiters from across the country knocking on her door.
Pym selected Old Dominion University (ODU) because of what she considered a good fit of academics and athletics. Plus, the Lady Monarch did not want to be more than a day’s drive from her home.

The scholar athlete played in all her college games, including as a starter her senior season. Pym also contributed to the Lady Monarchs winning a bid to the Sweet 16. She was always certain about basketball, but undecided about a college major early on. Pym “stumbled into engineering by accident,” she recalls, and couldn’t be happier. After earning a Civil Engineering Technology degree, and a minor in Mechanical Engineering Technology, Pym has been on marine projects for most of her eleven-year professional career.  “There’s nothing like building on water,” she insists. Pym is currently pursuing a Master of Engineering Management degree from ODU.

For the next five years, she will be working on or near water, bridge trestles or tunnels. Pym is the Project Manager for the North Island Reclamation, which is part of the HRBT Expansion. Her job is to manage the doubling in size of the North Island (Hampton side), which she refers to as “the foundation for future tunnel works.” 
Pym oversees a team of six, including a majority of female engineers for whom she wants to be a good role model. Her leadership style is a solid commitment to teamwork and unity-fundamentals she learned on the basketball court-and skills that are pressed into action on the job site where she is respected by peers, and, yes, occasionally talks sports.

Pym is eager to follow an ever-changing industry because she has already noticed favorable changes, not just for women, but technology, too. In day-to-day operations, “Superintendents are using tablets,” she chuckles. 
In today’s virtual climate, the HRBT Expansion Project Team continues to connect with business, social and civic groups to inform and engage on project details, milestones, and the benefits to the Hampton Roads region.  

Utilizing the latest in online meeting technology in the past month, the team presented to hundreds of citizens to include Dominion Energy Employees; Norfolk State University President’s Cabinet; Tidewater Community College President’s Cabinet; VDOT Intelligent Traffic Systems Conference Attendees, and the Warwick Rotary.

If you are interested in having an HRBT Expansion Project team member present to your business or organization, please email your request to HRBTinfo@VDOT.Virginia.Gov. 
Photo of the Month
PICTURED ABOVE: An offshore view of the HRBT South Island daily operations
As the South Island continues to be prepped to receive the Tunnel Boring Machine in fall of 2021, crew members and commuters can catch a glimpse of the scenic HRBT island views.
Social Connecting
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