Crews place final element on new Midtown Tunnel

(WAVY/Lavoy Harrell)

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — It’s a significant day for Hampton Roads — construction crews sank the final section of the new Midtown tunnel, connecting Norfolk to Portsmouth.

The last piece alone is 16,000 tons of concrete. While the final section is being placed Tuesday, there’s still a long way to go before everything is completed. Crews will still have to make changes to the roads in Norfolk and in Portsmouth leading into the tunnels. But nonetheless, Tuesday marks a big milestone for the Midtown Tunnel project.

“We have a lot of work to do to get it ready to actually house cars right here,” said Project Manager Daniel Francis. “Where we’re standing will actually be two lanes in the westbound direction from Norfolk to Portsmouth. The first three elements will be on land under the port property. As you get to element 4 through 7, that’s really where the channel is then 8, 9, 10, 11 bring you up to the other side of Norfolk.”

Photos: A look inside the new Midtown Tunnel

Here’s how everything is going to work:

  • Tuesday morning, crews dropped the last section of the concrete block under the Elizabeth River.
  • Workers will top the sections off with 68,000 tons of stone to protect the tube against ships and prevent that section from shifting.
  • Crews will then start on safety features inside the tube, which could take some time.

Video: Barge placing and immersing Element 11

The new tunnel is made up of 11 pieces and will carry all westbound traffic from Norfolk to Portsmouth. Crews started placing the tubes in October, but the entire project began three years ago.

This tube won’t be completed until late next year, and once it’s built, crews will start making improvements to the existing tunnel. But in 2018, drivers who use the Midtown Tunnel to get between the two cities will have twice as many lanes.

“It’s going to greatly increase traffic capacity having two lanes in each direction in the Midtown Tunnel. It’s quality of life for folks; less time in traffic, better fuel efficiency, better commute times. It will substantially improve quality of life,” said Project Director Wade Watson.

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