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Elizabeth River Tunnels

Under a public-private partnership, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) entered into a comprehensive agreement with Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) to build a new Midtown Tunnel, rehabilitate the existing Midtown Tunnel and the Downtown Tunnel, and extend the Martin Luther King (MLK) Freeway in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. VDOT will maintain ownership of the facilities and will oversee ERC’s activities. ERC will finance, build, operate and maintain the facilities for a 58-year concession period.


WSP USA, formerly WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, is serving as lead designer to the design-build team. The centerpiece of the project is a new two-lane, 4,198-foot (1,280-meter) immersed tube tunnel under the Elizabeth River parallel to the existing Midtown Tunnel. The new Midtown Tunnel will be the first deep-water concrete immersed-tube tunnel in North America. The project also includes maintenance and safety improvements to the existing Midtown Tunnel and the existing Downtown Tunnel to bring them into compliance with National Fire Protection Standards; including protection of structural elements and improvements to lighting and signage systems; interchange improvements at Brambleton Avenue/Hampton Boulevard in Norfolk; and extension of the MLK Freeway from London Boulevard to I-264 with two new interchanges.

The project includes design and installation of an automated monitoring system that enabled 3D finite-element modeling to predict tunnel movements and stress changes affecting the existing Midtown Tunnel; an integrated ITS system to control the Midtown and Downtown tunnels; and a fiber backbone and ITS devices along the MLK Freeway.

Our tasks also included preparation of the relocation design for a 30-inch (0.76-meter) raw water main owned by the City of Norfolk.

The project is expected to be completed in 2017. It will reduce travel time and improve roadway safety while stimulating the local economy by creating or improving access to jobs, generating more than $1 billion in construction works, and increasing regional productivity. 

View a video depicting how we used Virtual Design and Construction including model based design, virtual prototyping, 3D coordination and visualization to improve the efficiency of the design-build process.