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VDOT gives inside look at tunnel production for massive HRBT Expansion Project

The HRBT Expansion has a price tag of more than $3 billion. Crews started creating parts for the tunnels late last year.

CAPE CHARLES, Va. — The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project will soon take shape.

On Wednesday, 13News Now got a look at the production process for building two new underground tunnels.

“This is the largest project VDOT has undertaken,” said HRBT Expansion Project Director James Utterback.

Workers are building the tunnels one ring at a time at a Cape Charles production yard.

The HRBT Expansion has a price tag of more than $3 billion. Utterback said crews started creating parts for the tunnels late last year.

“We are making great progress on this,” Utterback said.

Crews pour reinforced concrete into U-shaped molds every day at the yard.

“There are 27 total molds. There are nine different types of segments,” said Technopref Project Manager Benoit Cousineau. “They are all geometrically a little bit different, so they can connect in the tunnel to make the ring.”

Officials said nine concrete pieces, weighing a whopping 12 tons each, make up one tunnel ring.

Technopref Industries Inc. runs the production. Officials said they’ll build about 1,200 concrete rings to make up each tunnel.

“This is a very precise method of casting these segments so that they fit together to make the tunnel as waterproof as we can,” Utterback said.

Utterback said crews will begin laying the rings down next spring with their tunnel boring machine.

“The machine will excavate and assemble these rings behind it as it is going under the harbor,” Utterback said.

Concrete pieces are piled high in the yard, but officials said they are just 11% of the way through production.

Utterback said he hopes the expansion project gets drivers around with ease.

“It will help the traffic significantly on that crossing,” Utterback said.

VDOT officials said when the tunnel pieces are ready, they will ship them over to the project in Hampton on a barge. They said they are hoping to complete the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project by November 2025.

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