First Responders Prepare for Virginia’s New Midtown Tunnel


The new Midtown Tunnel was opened to first responders to familiarize themselves with the new systems.

In June, the Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project partners hosted Norfolk and Portsmouth Fire-Rescue first responders to familiarize them with the new Midtown Tunnel. This walk-through was instrumental in providing the knowledge and tools needed for first responders to efficiently respond to incidents in the new tunnel as well as familiarize them with emergency access routes and critical fire life safety systems.

During the walk-through, area first responders tested emergency communication plans and learned about the new tunnel’s systems, including:

  • Jet fan tunnel ventilation
  • Air quality sensors for poor visibility and hazardous gasses
  • Emergency phones and fire pull stations
  • Egress corridor functionality and access
  • Linear heat detection, deluge system and zones
  • Communications channels and limitations for long-range two-way radio use
  • Lane Use Signals and Dynamic Message Signs (DMS)
  • Closed Circuit TV (CCTV) and Automated Incident Detection (AID) systems

RELATED: Elizabeth River Tunnels On-the-Job Training Program Recognized

The new Midtown Tunnel is designed and constructed using updated roadway tunnel standards as well as current fire protection and fire life safety requirements. As a result, many of the new Midtown Tunnel’s emergency response system features are unique from those of all other Hampton Roads tunnels. A proactive approach to systems introduction and training for first responders is critical to providing efficient emergency response.

Headquartered in Portsmouth, Virginia, Elizabeth River Crossings OpCo, LLC, is the private partner of the Virginia Department of Transportation for the design, construction, finance, operations and maintenance of the Elizabeth River Tunnels (ERT) Project, with SKW Constructors, JV (a Skanska, Kiewit, Weeks Marine Joint Venture) as design-build contractor.

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