VDOT evaluating panels after emergency repairs on the HRBT

Chopper 10 above the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel as crews conduct emergency repairs during the afternoon rush hour, Feb. 11, 2014.

HAMPTON, Va. (WAVY) — The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is evaluating panels after emergency repairs shut down the eastbound tube of the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) Tuesday afternoon.

The Virginia Department of Transportation announced the closure around 4 p.m. Two hours later, VDOT confirmed crews were working to reattach two metal panels to the concrete ceiling at the tube opening in Hampton. VDOT said the tunnel was closed after inspectors noticed the panels were slightly out of position.

Around 7:40 p.m., VDOT reopened the tube, saying the affected area had been repaired and inspected, and there was no significant structural damage to the HRBT.

On Wednesday, VDOT said no tiles or panels fell or detached from the ceiling at any time. Crews realigned and reinforced panel attachments for enhanced safety. VDOT engineers were evaluating the panels Wednesday to determine if additional action would be needed to secure or remove panels.

10 On Your Side talked to a truck driver who says a piece of the metal panel from the HRBT tunnel tube hit his vehicle.

“It sounded like an explosion on the front of my truck,” said Harley White. “It actually shook my truck.”

White was on his way home from a doctor’s appointment when something his his truck. He didn’t know it at the time, but now he believes it was a piece of a metal panel from the eastbound tube.

“It hit the front of the truck, and just shook the whole truck,” said White. “It startled me, and I was trying to figure out what it was and I was looking at my gauges. It hit hard enough that it could have ruptured the radiator.

White made it through the scary ordeal unharmed, and reported the incident to VDOT.

“I came on home through the tunnel and saw that the panel had sliced my truck, so I thought immediately it had to be a tile,” said White.

White is relieved, noting he could be in far worse shape right now.

“I got home and I was thinking, if I had been traveling quicker, it could have been a major issue,” said White.

On Wednesday, VDOT said White’s story could not be true.

Spokeswoman Marshall Herman said VDOT, “received a report from a motorist stating a tile fell on his car as he was driving through the HRBT, which prompted visual inspection. At no point did tiles or panels fall from the ceiling.”

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