March 2021 Edition
A Message From the Project Director
Jim Utterback
Spring is almost here, bringing warmer weather and increased outdoor activities across Hampton Roads. For the HRBT Expansion Project, spring also means increased construction activity on the roadways, on the water, and on the islands, as we work to widen I-64 between Hampton and Norfolk. 
A project of this magnitude involves hundreds, and eventually thousands, of workers. This March, we celebrate all of the women on the project. Women’s History Month traditionally recognizes the pioneers from our history, but we’d like to focus on those who are forging new roads ahead in construction and transportation. Women like the engineers, administrators, managers, and craft workers on the HRBT Expansion Project. I’m proud to say women are represented in every facet of the project
PICTURED ABOVE: Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP) Engineers, from l to r - Sofia O’Brien, Project Engineer; Julissa Garcia, Field Engineer; Megan Pym, Project Manager; Solene Vazelle, Lead Engineer; Shalini Gundu, Field Engineer
As our entire team continues to work hard to deliver the HRBT Expansion Project, we celebrate each milestone one season at a time and are excited for what Spring 2021 will bring. 

Jim Utterback, Project Director
Meet Mary the TBM
The grins were wide and the excitement palpable as students from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Virginia Beach – Team Sancti Potentes – learned that they were the winning team in the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) Naming Contest!
PICTURED ABOVE: Team Sancti Potentes of St. Gregory the Great Catholic School; winners of the TBM Naming Contest

Students named the TBM “Mary” in honor of Mary Jackson, a pioneering African-American female mathematician and aerospace engineer at NASA. Ms. Jackson, a native of Hampton, Virginia, made significant contributions to the NASA Space Program and broke both color and gender barriers in the fields of science and engineering. Students at St. Gregory’s submitted a “newscast” styled video as their winning submission. 
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) HRBT Expansion Project Director, Jim Utterback, and Hampton Roads Connectors Partners (HRCP) Project Executive José Martin Alos, announced the winning name on February 24, 2021. It was the culmination of the collaboration between VDOT and HRCP to hold a contest to formally name the TBM that will be used to construct the new twin two-lane bored tunnels. The contest was launched in October 2020 and opened to all middle school students in Hampton Roads. Student entries included posters, brochures, essays, and videos. Entries were judged on the name submitted, relevance to the project and community, and creativity and presentation of the submission.
PICTURED ABOVE: Project Director Jim Utterback celebrates with the winning team
PICTURED ABOVE: HRCP Project Executive Jose Martin discussing the size of the TBM compared to a 4-story building

The name “Mary” will be prominently displayed on the TBM which is currently under construction in Germany. The TBM is scheduled to arrive at the HRBT South Island in Fall 2021.
Second place honors go to students from Crittenden Middle School in Newport News who submitted the name “Mary” as a brochure entry. Third place honors go to students from Hunter B. Andrews PreK-8 in Hampton who submitted the name “TEO,” representing The Emancipation Oak, as a brochure entry.
Congratulations to St. Gregory the Great Catholic School – Team Sancti Potentes – and to all of the students who participated in the TBM Naming Contest!
Construction Activity Underway in Norfolk
Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP) has started construction work within the city of Norfolk. The initial work in the W. Bay Avenue/Oastes Creek Bridge and Willoughby Bay Bridge areas of Norfolk is part of the widening of I-64 from the current 2-lane configuration in each direction.
W. Bay Avenue/Oastes Creek

Construction work includes building a temporary trestle leading from W. Bay Avenue to I-64 eastbound at Masons Creek. Work in this area began in late February with the installation of trestle spans. A total of 14 trestle spans will be installed, and this work platform for crane access is projected to be completed in mid-April.
A component of trestle construction is the installation of 28 steel pile pipes in the ground below the trestle which serve as the structural foundation of the trestle. These 120-foot long piles are driven into the ground using both impact and vibratory pile driving hammers.
PICTURED ABOVE: 120-foot long piles that will serve as the structural foundation for the temporary trestles
Work will also include the installation of a temporary access trestle adjacent to the existing Oastes Creek Bridge. A crane will be delivered to the site to build the trestle spans, including pile driving work, which will begin in late March and continue through June 2021. 
PICTURED ABOVE: Steel pile pipe being picked-up and moved to the spot – adjacent to the existing W. Bay Avenue on-ramp to I-64 eastbound – where it will be driven into the ground to support a temporary access trestle.

Willoughby Bay Bridge
The activity includes the construction of a temporary trestle along eastbound Willoughby Bay Bridge. Work in this area began in mid-February with the driving of test piles in Willoughby Bay, which were completed in early March. Work now shifts to the installation of this trestle with pile driving work (using an impact pile driving hammer from a barge-mounted crane) from approximately May until November 2021. Work to install the trestle on the westbound side of the bridge will begin in early 2022. The picture (left) shows the barge and crane being used to drive a test pile into the bottom of the bay.
I-64 Between 4th View Street and Patrol Road

In late March (weather permitting), work will begin on I-64 in Norfolk between 4th View Street and Patrol Road to prepare the outside shoulder to accommodate a future lane shift. Work will be performed overnight to remove rumble strips and to strengthen the shoulder. Once the shoulder has been prepared, crews will adjust pavement markings and set barriers for a traffic shift to accommodate future widening work in the median.

Additional construction information and updates, as well as traffic alerts, will be provided as the project advances. To keep up-to-date, visit the project’s website at
Project Progress Photos
A hydromill trench-cutter excavates a section of the slurry walls. The machine uses cutter wheels with teeth as shown here to help dig through the soil. The excavated sections will be filled with concrete to create the underground walls.
Along with all the activities and equipment on the project, crews continue to plan and prepare for the next steps of upcoming construction.
Steel pipe piles will provide support for a work platform and dock to unload and start assembly of the TBM at the South Island.
Cranes unload stones of varying sizes from barges for expansion of the North Island. Excavators help place the stones in the future shape of the expanded island footprint.
Employee Spotlight: Michelle Martin
Growing up in Hampton Roads, Michelle Martin spent summers on construction sites as she watched her father build custom homes. It was no surprise when she decided to major in architecture in college. Halfway through Virginia Tech, Martin discovered she was more interested in the mechanics behind how things were built and switched to civil engineering. Martin’s plan after school was to go into structural engineering, but as fate would have it, she landed in transportation and the rest is history.
As a Project Manager, Martin’s first project that she managed from start to finish was an interchange project in Chesterfield, Virginia, which won a Design-Build Initiative Award. After the project was completed and she looked at the Google Earth views, she saw the magnitude of her contribution. As Martin put it, “The things that we do, you can see from outer space. You not only change the world, but you have a positive impact on people - you make their lives better.”

In addition to the project awards, Martin was also honored with the prestigious Rising Star Award in 2017 from the American Council of Engineering Companies. Regarding her success, Martin credits her mom who encouraged her to always be her best. “Often her ideas of what I could be were so much better than my own. It's because of her that I believe in myself and believe that I have the ability to push myself to be better.” Martin also credits her success to women in the field who have mentored her and allowed her to grow. That’s why she is involved with the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) Hampton Roads Chapter, which provides an opportunity for her to encourage other women to go into engineering.
As a Professional Engineer for the consultant firm WSP, Martin supports VDOT as the Engineering Task Manager on the HRBT Expansion Project. Martin ensures that the design plans submitted by the contractor meet engineering standard practices and contract requirements. Taking on the largest infrastructure project in the history of Virginia is quite the challenge, but Martin is no chicken (although her family raises six of them at home).
Photo of the Month
Pictured above is an aerial photo that captures the expansion progress
of the North Island at the HRBT.
The HRBT Expansion Project team has engaged in outreach events and presentations since 2018. Since that time, the team has been able to present at more than 200 meetings and events, bringing awareness to the project and engaging citizens about the impacts to the region.

Early on in March, HRBT team members presented to the Mallory Street Bridge Stakeholders, the Hampton Maritime Academy, and the Broad Bay Sailing Association.

If you are interested in having an HRBT Expansion Project team member present to your business or organization, please email your request to,
Social Connecting
The HRBT Expansion Project team is committed to staying connected with the region for the life of the project. Like, join, follow, or tweet about the project on our social media channels.
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