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Skanska, leading a joint venture of Skanska, Kiewit Construction, and Weeks Marine (SKW Constructors), celebrated the official completion — one year ahead of schedule — of the design-build phase of the Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) project. The completed ERT project features a new, two-lane tunnel adjacent to the existing, refurbished Midtown Tunnel under the Elizabeth River, connecting the communities of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Va. The two-tunnel configuration, along with enhanced access roads, provides urgently needed additional capacity for a road considered the “most heavily traveled two-lane road east of the Mississippi,” according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Traffic has increased 600 percent since it opened more than 50 years ago.

“[This project] has been a top priority for the Hampton Roads region for many years,” said Aubrey Layne, Virginia Secretary of Transportation. “The two-tunnel system and other improvements allow for smoother, safer flow of traffic between Norfolk and Portsmouth, a more efficient flow of goods and services, and a better quality of life for local residents.”

The ERT project represents a successful example of the public-private partnership (P3) model, which involved development, design, construction, finance, and operation and maintenance of the project. P3s can allow for effective risk recognition and mitigation and more efficient and accelerated procurement, which was exhibited by the ERT project, where every phase was completed ahead of schedule.

“Thanks to the P3 model and our use of the design-build process, we were able to successfully deploy what I call ‘collaborative talent dynamics,’” said Wade Watson, ERT project design-build director. “By applying innovative ideas, efficient procurement methods, and coordination of efforts among all parties in the project, we were able to complete our work a year ahead of schedule, while maintaining our usual high safety and quality standards.”

The 3,800-foot-long underwater vehicle tunnel is one of the few immersed-tube tunnels in the U.S. It comprises 11, 16,000-ton concrete elements. The tubes were fabricated at Sparrows Point, Md., and towed 220 nautical miles down the Chesapeake Bay to the project site in Portsmouth, Va. They were then immersed and positioned — one element at a time — in a dredged trench nearly 100 feet at the bottom of the Elizabeth River and then connected through a series of locking mechanisms and seals.

ERT has already alleviated congestion issues and saves the average round-trip commuter between 30 and 60 minutes a day. It also includes fire, life, and safety modifications and upgrades to the existing Midtown Tunnel and Downtown Tunnels; interchange modifications in Norfolk and Portsmouth; and extension of the MLK Expressway in Portsmouth from London Boulevard to I-264.

Operational control of the tunnels is now the responsibility of Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC), a joint venture of Skanska and Macquarie Group.

“Residents and visitors to the Hampton Roads area are only beginning to feel the benefits of the improved Elizabeth River Tunnels system,” said Philip Shucet, Elizabeth River Crossings CEO. “Our agreement with VDOT requires us to properly maintain the facilities throughout the term of the agreement, meaning drivers will enjoy clean and safe tunnels and the MLK for years to come.”

The ERT project was Skanska’s first P3 in the U.S. It has two other major P3 projects underway — the I-4 Ultimate Project in Central Florida and LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal B. Skanska is a partner in both the construction joint venture of Skanska Granite and Lane (SGL Constructors) and the concessionaire I-4 Mobility Partners, selected by the Florida Department of Transportation for the I-4 Ultimate. Currently the largest transportation project underway in Florida, I-4 Ultimate involves reconstruction of 21 miles of roadway to accommodate new express lanes, construction of 143 bridges, and associated improvements.

Skanska is a partner in LaGuardia Gateway Partners, selected by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey for redevelopment of LaGuardia Airport’s Central Terminal B, under a P3 contract. This $4 billion project calls for LaGuardia Gateway Partners to finance, design, construct, operate, and maintain a new 35-gate terminal through 2050.

Report: Global tunnel projects reach $1.5 trillion

According to a new report from Timetric’s Construction Intelligence Center (CIC), the total global value of tunnel-related projects currently tracked stands at $1.51 trillion (all values are U.S. dollars). This investment will equate to more than 2,326 miles total length of tunnels to be added globally (according to the 62 percent of CIC global projects where this information is known), with European projects accounting for 918 miles of this total.

Europe leads globally with a total pipeline of tunnel projects worth $574.8 billion. Within Europe, the UK dominates tunnel-related project investment with a value of $198.4 billion, reflecting the UK investment in infrastructure mega projects such as Crossrail and High Speed 2.

Asia-Pacific follows Europe with projects valued at $563.8 billion. This includes the highest value project tracked by CIC, the $80 billion Fuzhou to Taipei Highway: Taiwan Strait Tunnel. China comes in second to the UK with tunnel projects valued at $168.6 billion.

The U.S. tunnels project pipeline, as tracked by CIC, currently holds a value of $149.9 billion.

Project Insight: Global Tunnel Construction Projects is available for purchase at www.timetricreports.com/report/cn0052pi–project-insight-global-tunnel-construction-projects.

Information provided by Skanska (www.skanska.com). Check the December issue for a more extensive article about the ERT project.