September 2020 Edition
A Message From the Project Director
Jim Utterback

An eagerly anticipated milestone for the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project occurred on September 11, 2020 when the Virginia Department of Transportation gave a green light-officially known as Notice to Proceed (NTP) - to Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP) to begin construction.

NTP follows HRCP’s receipt of all necessary state and federal permits to begin work on the $3.8 billion project.
The stages leading up to NTP may seem insignificant to many people, but it takes an incredible amount of coordination and collaboration to reach this phase, especially in just 16 months. I credit the commitment of HRCP, federal and state agencies, and VDOT with moving the project forward. With the issuance of NTP, detailed design and construction can get underway.

Over the next five years, we look forward to bringing you exciting month-to-month progress reports in this newsletter about a construction project like no other in Virginia.

Jim Utterback, Project Director
NTP Received!
Pictured Above: Aerial view of the South Island
Three small letters … one LARGE project milestone accomplished. Simply put, Notice to Proceed is formal notice from VDOT to HRCP that the contractor has completed all of the required pre-construction contract obligations, and that HRCP can begin work subject to the conditions of the contract (the Comprehensive Agreement).

NTP marks the successful completion of 16 months of Early Work on the project – beginning with limited notice to proceed (LNTP-1) issued in April 2019 and followed by LNTPs 2 & 3 issued in September 2019.

Upon receipt of NTP from VDOT, HRCP Project Executive Jose Martin Alos commented, “This contract milestone [NTP] is very important to HRCP since it now frees up construction along all the whole project corridor – from roadway improvements, to bridge and trestle construction, to tunnel fabrication – once the design packages are finalized and approved for construction. This is another step in the right direction for an extremely important, fast-track project that requires a lot of construction preplanning and design to ensure we can deliver the project on time.”

To the local public, the receipt of NTP means that HRCP will over the coming months:
  • Advance construction activity on the South Island and North Island of the HRBT, to include expansion of the islands and the digging of a 65 foot pit that will be used to launch the tunnel boring machine.

  • Launch marine work with expansion of the North Island and early work on the construction of a temporary trestle near the North Island.

  • Commence early roadway expansion work with the installation of a temporary trestle that will allow for the construction of the widening of the Bay Avenue and Oastes Creek bridges.

Construction work on existing highway and bridge structures in the cities of Hampton and Norfolk will not begin until early 2021 – and once HRCP begins work that may have an impact on the travelling public, VDOT and HRCP will provide regular project updates to the public via travel advisories, social media, and various other communication channels.
Concrete Progress
Pictured Above: Close up aerial view of the triple cell cofferdam (peanut shape) where slurry wall excavation is taking place
Excavation began on August 29, 2020 for the South Island slurry walls with the first concrete panel placed on September 3. Since then, eight primary panels have been installed for a total of 6,172 cubic yards of concrete.

This was accomplished with the use of two hydromill machines and a slurry processing plant. The plant ran 24 hours a day, five days a week during the work.

To try to imagine this amount; that much concrete would fill more than 600 concrete trucks, and, if parked end-to-end, the line of trucks would stretch four miles!

The slurry walls form the outline of a triple-cell cofferdam-the length of a football field- and the space inside will later be excavated to receive the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), which is scheduled to launch from the site in early 2022.
In October, crews will continue installing concrete wall panels to complete the first cell and then begin work on the next cell.
Pictured Above: Four trucks simultaneously placing concrete for tri-cell wall panel 190' deep
DBE & SWaM Opportunities Making Great Strides
Marine Operations Overview
Pictured above: HRCP Marine Manager, Ron Meyer, presenting
In keeping with its mission of “safety first,” VDOT and HRCP hosted a Marine Operations Overview Meeting on September 16, 2020 for first responders in the cities of Norfolk and Hampton, along with members of the United States Coast Guard.

Between the bridges, tunnels, and islands, most of the work on the HRBT Expansion Project takes place in the water, which requires an established emergency response plan for the project’s marine operations. HRCP’s Marine Manager, Ron Meyer, reviewed the scope and phases of work, and the timeline of marine construction activity for the life of the project. 

By the summer of 2021 there will be more than 300 personnel involved in marine operations, including craftspeople and those in management of support and logistics. Willoughby Spit will serve as the main support site for HRCP. This location will house offices, a 250-300 vehicle parking lot, a mechanic shop, onsite medical services and a craft training facility. Workers will be transported to the job sites on the North and South Islands via watercraft and shuttle bus, which will decrease the impact to vehicle traffic at the HRBT. 

In November, the marine operations crew will begin working 12 – 24 hours a day, to increase the North Island footprint by 16 acres and support the tunnel and bridge construction. With the increase of workers, equipment, and vehicles, as well as the challenge of the shallow water and frequent currents, HRCP’s safety team will work closely with local first responders to coordinate emergency response to marine incidents. 

Working cooperatively, the cities of Hampton and Norfolk have developed a shared services response to the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Zone. The zone extends along I-64 from Mallory Street in Hampton to 15th View in Norfolk. Emergency calls related to the project that originate from this zone will have response from both Hampton and Norfolk, and together the cities will determine who will take lead on the call.  
Border Collies Work Until the Last Bird Flies South
Pictured Above: Rebecca Gibson, owner of Flyaway Geese, and two of her canine colleagues
Most of the migratory seabirds nudged from the HRBT South Island, to stay safe during the HRBT Expansion Project, are now making their way to their South and Central America wintering grounds.

Meanwhile, Rebecca Gibson and her company, Flyaway Geese, will stick around until mid-October to make sure no shore birds work their way back to the island.
Since arriving in February, Gibson and her 20 trained border collies successfully prevented 40,757 birds from touching down on the South Island, which is under construction. Gibson tallies the count from daily log sheets she has kept from her first day on the job. More importantly, Gibson says, “there were zero nests on the South Island during shore bird nesting season.”
Instead, HRCP's bird management plan, which was coordinated with the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (VDWR), successfully wooed the birds to nearby Ft. Wool for the season.

Gibson’s North Carolina-based company was hired by HRCP to encourage the birds to shift to the new habitat from the South Island, where they have been nesting for decades.

The border collies received a lot of attention for both their bird management duties as well as their daily uniform of sunshades and paw protection. They were also quite a conversation topic when the 20 canines were briefly evacuated from the South Island in a horse trailer when Hurricane Isaias stormed through Hampton Roads.
Gibson and her four-legged friends will be back next season to, once again, help the seabirds choose Ft. Wool as an alternative to summering on the South Island.
HRBT Expansion Project Team Members Honored by Women in Transportation Chapter
Martha Gross, VDOT Technical Director for the HRBT Expansion Project and Paula Miller, VDOT’s Communications Manager are 2020 honorees for Women in Transportation Seminar (WTS)-Hampton Roads Chapter.

Martha was named Woman of the Year 2020 and Paula is Member of the Year.
Pictured Above: Martha Gross, HRBT Expansion Project Technical Director
Martha is a licensed civil engineer with business and engineering degrees from Virginia Tech and Penn State, and she began her career locally as a field engineer with Tidewater Construction Corporation. 

She has been closely involved in all aspects of the HRBT Expansion Project since joining VDOT in 2016. She previously worked as contractor, designer, and owner’s representative on major projects around the country totaling over $9 billion, including the $3 billion Tappan Zee Bridge replacement in New York.

In nominating Martha for the chapter’s Woman of the Year recognition, the nominator said, “Martha has both a seat and voice at the table due to the respect she has earned from her professional work. She is quick to assist other younger engineers who seek guidance on projects and she is always willing to step up and support the local WTS chapter.”
Pictured Above: Paula Miller, HRBT Expansion Project Communications Manager
Paula has been with the HRBT Expansion Project for the past two-and-a-half years and previously served as Communications Manager for the VDOT Hampton Roads District.

Her background is in radio, television, newspapers and public affairs. Paula is also a former member of the Virginia House of Delegates where she represented the City of Norfolk for seven years.

Paula is recognized as Member of the Year for her many contributions to promote the growth of the WTS Hampton Roads Chapter where she also chairs the Communications committee.

Both Martha and Paula will receive formal recognition during the chapter’s annual awards ceremony (virtual) to be held in October. 
HRBT Project Director Jim Utterback was the recipient of the 2018 WTS Hampton Roads Chapter Ray LaHood Award. The award is presented to a man who has led by example to advance women in his organization, and who contributed to the advancement of women and minorities through programs or opportunities in the transportation field.
Safety is Rewarding for Reale
The HRBT Expansion Project team welcomes Randy Reale, Safety, and Health Coordinator. Born in Mississippi, Reale spent most of his life traveling the United States as both his mom and dad worked on a variety of bridge and tunnel projects. “Construction on tunnels and bridges was my family’s way of life,” said Reale. “Where they were building, we would go.”  
From construction to safety, Reale has worked on 15 tunnel projects and numerous bridge and aerial structure projects throughout the country. According to Reale, the most notable of his assignments included the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) system in Atlanta GA, which also served as his introduction to the safety side of the industry. There were also several bored tunnel projects from coast to coast and in between, to include Washington, DC, Chicago, Seattle, and Portland.
Reale looks forward to doing his part to ensure a successful, safe, and on-time project. While Reale enjoys the jovial work atmosphere and camaraderie amongst the crew, in his opinion, the most rewarding aspect of his job is seeing that everyone can go home at the end of a productive day, safe and uninjured.
When Reale is not spending his days ensuring the safety of the HRBT crew, you can find him boating, riding his motorcycle, or “chasing golf balls,” as he likes to refer to his game of golf. He currently resides on the Outer Banks of North Carolina with his wife, where they are restoring and renovating a family home. Yes, he currently commutes to Hampton Roads during the workweek. That’s “Reale” commitment to the project. Welcome, Randy!
Sunset at the HRBT
While the sun doesn't set on this project until the end of 2025, the HRBT Expansion crew working on the South Island can witness nature's end to a productive day.
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