Miles to go
An update on statewide road projects
Virginia’s largest-ever highway construction project, the $3.9 billion Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) expansion, continues to dominate the state’s ongoing roadwork projects.
Construction began in October 2020. The contractor — Hampton Roads Connector Partners, a joint venture led by Dragados USA Inc. that includes Vinci Construction, Flatiron Construction and Dodin Campenon Bernard — was running 11 months behind schedule as of January 2023. However, the Virginia Department of Transportation has not changed the contract completion date of November 2025. The department “continues to work with the contractor to mitigate any production delays and will continue to support HRCP as needed to ensure they achieve project milestones,” VDOT said in a statement.
The expansion is meant to reduce congestion, add emergency evacuation routes and increase access to the Port of Virginia. It will widen 9.9 miles of Interstate 64 between Norfolk and Hampton, from four lanes to six on land and eight over the water, with twin two-lane tunnels. VDOT anticipates major traffic shifts will begin this spring.
Work on laying bases for bridge trestles continues. Early this year, construction crews finished preparations to allow a new temporary eastbound marine trestle on South Island to open. The trestle will temporarily support traffic emerging from the eastbound tunnel, allowing demolition of the existing bridge to begin.
A $70 million custom-built tunnel boring machine (TBM) will carve underwater paths. Crews continue to assemble the TBM, and on Jan. 13, two cranes lowered the 46-foot-diameter cutterhead into the South Island launch pit and attached it to the TBM. This first necessitated contractors to excavate 118,000 cubic yards of soil — enough to cover 55 football fields with one foot of soil. Work continues on the North Island receiving pit. In March, crews were working on final preparations to the launch shaft and the TBM, including welding components together. VDOT expected system testing activities to begin in March, with tunnel boring expected to begin as early as April if testing results were good.
The commonwealth’s other major ongoing highway projects are:
The state government entered a $1 billion public-private partnership with Transurban, an Australian toll-road operations company that has its U.S. headquarters in Alexandria, as part of its Improve 95 plan to address congestion. Developers estimate the project will increase Interstate 95’s capacity by 66% during rush hour traffic. The $565 million
Fredericksburg Extension (Fred Ex) project will extend I-95 express lanes south to Exit 133 in Stafford County, a roughly 10-mile stretch. Transurban will operate and maintain the express lanes, charging variable tolls in a contract that ends in 2087. Construction work began in spring 2019 and was originally expected to end in late 2022, but construction delays have pushed the expected completion date to late 2023.
Interstate 81 improvements, Coalfields Expressway
The $2.7 billion Interstate 81 Corridor Improvement Program encompasses 64 improvements, including interchange ramp upgrades, highway widening and lane additions — all designed to improve road safety and reliability for the 325-mile corridor from Bristol to Winchester. Stemming from a 2018 study, the project is scheduled for a 2033 completion. Improvement schedules vary. One recently completed improvement is the extension of the northbound and southbound acceleration lanes at Exit 205 in Rockbridge County by roughly 0.4 miles and 0.3 miles, respectively. Construction started in April 2021 and ended in October 2022.
The proposed $4 billion Coalfields Expressway (CFX), designated as U.S. Route 460/121, is set to run through Southwest Virginia and southern West Virginia. Construction on a $207 million 2-mile stretch of U.S. Route 460 that will extend from near state Route 604 to the existing Route 460 in Grundy is expected to be finished this December, at which point Virginia would have opened 8 miles of the CFX. VDOT plans to widen the same 2-mile portion to four lanes using $7 million that the U.S. government allocated in its fiscal 2023 spending bill. In February, the department was working with the contractor, Bizzack Construction LLC, to add the additional lane for the 2-mile widening to the contract. VDOT anticipates work starting in the spring or summer, with an expected completion in late 2023.