- Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission voted Wednesday to award a $756 million, 17.6-mile tunnel project to Dragados USA.
- The new tunnel will run parallel to an existing Bay Bridge tunnel, which connects Virginia Beach, VA, with the state's Eastern Shore.
- Officials said the project, which will utilize a tunnel boring machine (TBM), will take five years to complete. Construction is set to begin in October 2017.
The contract with Spain-based Dragados is design-build, and the company expects to be complete with the design process in about a year. This is the first TBM project for the area, and CBBT officials called the decision to use the technology one of "optimization and innovations" and added that it was the "specialty" of the Dragados team.
With any luck, the Chesapeake project won't fall victim to the same delays and cost overruns as the Alaskan Way Viaduct tunnel replacement project in Seattle, which also involves Dragados. The company is a member of the joint venture Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP) with Tutor Perini.
The Washington State Department of Transportation recently announced that it expected at least $223 million in cost overruns on the project, which is already three years behind schedule. The trouble started when Bertha, the TBM used on the project, broke down in 2013 after it hit a steel plate. After two years and a lot of fingerpointing between WSDOT and STP, Bertha started drilling again only to have a sinkhole open up over the drilling area. This prompted the governor to halt all drilling operations for more than a month until STP submitted an updated drilling plan, but drilling resumed in late February.
An April Wall Street Journal report found that tunneling projects underneath major cities are on the rise due to the new TBM machinery. Herrenknecht AG, a leading tunnel TBM manufacturer, told The Journal that the number of buyers for its $50 million TBM’s has increased from approximately 20 in 2000 to 100 this year.