HRBT Expansion Project Reaches New Milestone

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A view of “Mary,” the Tunnel Boring Machine, which will be used in the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel Expansion Project (Courtesy of Virginia Department of Transportation)

NORFOLK — The Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel (HRBT) Expansion Project has reached a new milestone after the tunnel boring machine (TBM) for the project has completed its Factory Acceptance Test (FAT).

The machine, which has been named “Mary,” was manufactured by German-based Herrenknecht. The FAT was the final stage before moving the machine to Hampton Roads. The test allowed for a comprehensive review and testing of “Mary’s” capabilities at the manufacturer’s site prior to delivery and commission.

Over the course of several weeks, “Mary” was able to demonstrate that all systems functioned as they were designed while also allowing for any possible adjustments that needed to be made before being shipped to Hampton Roads. The rigorous process was also overseen by engineers from Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP), the design-build contractor of the the HRBT Expansion Project.

“Completing the Factory Acceptance Test means that ‘Mary’ the TBM is one step closer to starting excavation on VDOT’s [Virginia Department of Transportation] first ever bored tunnels,” said James Utterback, project director for the HRBT Expansion Project. “The new twin tunnels are the centerpiece of the HRBT Expansion Project.”

With the FAT completed, “Mary” will be disassembled and shipped to the South Island of the HRBT. It is expected to arrive in the area later this fall. It will then need to be reassembled and tested before boring can begin in mid-2022.

“[We] are very proud of the work accomplished by Herrenknecht and the HRCP JV Team to get us to this point,” said Juan Miguel Perez, project executive for HRCP.

The flag of Hampton Roads (Wikipedia)

The TBM’s cutter head is painted to resemble the Hampton Roads flag as well as the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability (HRTAC) logo.

“The HRBT project shows how VDOT and HRTAC work together to achieve a greater vision for Hampton Roads,” said Kevin Page, executive director of HRTAC. “The TBM cutter head paint design reflects the unprecedented regional cooperation that made funding possible for the HRBT Expansion Project through HRTAC.”

The name, “Mary,” was selected in February 2021 after St. Gregory the Great Catholic School, 5343 Virginia Beach Boulevard in Virginia Beach, announced that the name was chosen through a contest. It was ultimately decided that the name would honor Mary Winston Jackson, a Hampton native who made history as the first African American female engineer at NASA.

The HRBT Expansion Project will widen Interstate 64 (I-64) from Settlers Landing Road in Hampton to the I-564 Interchange in Norfolk. There will be an additional twin two-lane bored tunnels, new marine trestle bridges, along with bridge and roadway widening along ten miles of I-64. For more information, visit the website for the HRBT Expansion Project.

Click below to watch a video of “Mary.”

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