(Delmarvanow.com) -- A groundbreaking ceremony for a parallel tunnel being built on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is set for Sept. 18 at 11:30 a.m.
The half-hour ceremony will be held on Number One Island on the bridge-tunnel and is open to the public.
The Parallel Thimble Shoal Tunnel Project, in a five-year effort, will see construction of a new, two-lane tunnel under Thimble Shoal Channel.
The new tunnel will carry two lanes of traffic southbound and the existing tunnel will carry two lanes of traffic northbound.
Slated to speak at the ceremony are Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Virginia Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne, Sen. Lynwood Lewis, Delegate Rob Bloxom, Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission Chairman Frederick T. Stant III, Executive Director Jeffrey B. Holland and a representative from CTJV, the company building the tunnel.
Members of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission will ceremonially break ground on the project.
Construction has started already on Number Two island, Holland said.The construction cost for the tunnel is nearly $756 million.
The estimated completion date is October 2022.
The tunnel boring machine for the project has been obtained and is being constructed over a 12-month period in Herrenknecht, Germany, Holland said.
Once in place, the machine will remove about 500,000 cubic yards of soil to make way for the new tunnel.
The machine will excavate and build the tunnel starting at Island One and going to Island Two. The excavated soil will be taken back to Island One for removal.
The tunnel will consist of about 9,000 individual concrete pieces, and about 42,000 cubic yards of concrete will be used to make the sections.
The contract to build the parallel tunnel was signed in July 2016, after a three-and-a-half year project development and procurement process.
The final design for the project does not include space for a restaurant, like the popular eateries that have been a part of the bridge-tunnel over its 53-year history.
The need to reduce costs by eliminating non-critical elements resulted in a plan that does not include a restaurant.
The Virginia Originals gift shop and Chesapeake Grill restaurant will close Oct. 1, along with the fishing pier.
While the restaurant and shop will not return, the fishing pier and parking will be reopened once construction is completed, in around five years.
In addition to fishermen, birdwatchers like to park at the island, Holland said when the contract was awarded — noting birdwatchers will continue to have access to other areas of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel under an existing arrangement during construction.
Eliminating the restaurant, along with other design changes, reduced the project's cost by almost $260 million.
"The project was originally envisioned with a substantial expansion of the portal islands. As such, the expanded southern island would have created space for the future public amenities at little additional cost," Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Executive Director Jeff Holland said when the contract award was announced.
"When all of the teams competing for the project focused on reducing cost, it became apparent that island expansion could be very limited or nonexistent. As a result, the inclusion of the space sizing for the public amenities of a restaurant, retail shop and 200 additional parking spots that would otherwise require substantial island expansion became cost prohibitive and not necessary to meet the basic mission of the CBBT — providing the traveling public with a safe, cost effective, and unique driving experience across the scenic Chesapeake Bay," he said.
Updates about the tunnel project are announced via Project Connect to a database of around 700 subscribers, and information about the parallel Thimble Shoal tunnel project also is available on the bridge-tunnel website.