On Jan. 10, Southland Contracting crews completed construction of a $7 million vehicular tunnel project at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., that enhances travel in and around the campus.
The four-lane tunnel was scheduled to open by the end of January 2014 and was built under railroad tracks on the west side of campus and will empty out at the Wards Road/Harvard Street intersection. It will have two openings (two lanes entering and two lanes exiting), each with a sidewalk.
The project consisted of jacking two cast-in-place concrete tunnel sections, both 32 ft wide x 20 ft high x 130 ft long, into an embankment under active Northern Southern Railroad Tracks to be used as a vehicular tunnel for access to Liberty University. This jacking was actually a pulling operation in which hydraulic jacks (6 each per tunnel section) pulled steel tendons in HDPE casings that were attached from a reaction wall through the embankment through to the end of the tunnel box section wall. These tendon casing were installed prior to the casting of tunnel box sections. A soil nail wall and an array of spilings were installed for our support of excavation for pulling operations as well as preventing settlement to the active rail lines. It is believed that this type of jacking operation is the first of its kind in the United States.
Key project personnel include project manager John Marcantoni, Southland Contracting; general superintendent Clay Griffith, Southland Contracting; and designer Jeremiah Jezerski, Brierley Associates.
“It’s really rare that something that’s never happened before in North America is happening in Lynchburg, Va.,” said Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., who was also on hand Nov. 11 in a ceremony to commemorate the start of excavation. “It’s really exciting.”
It also marked the first time the Norfolk Southern Railway has allowed concrete boxes that large to be pulled under a live, active, main rail.
Charles Spence, Liberty’s director of Planning & Construction, said the project has been six years in the making, involving countless hours in planning with engineers and railway officials. “We were able to get the right people in the right places and earn the trust of the railroad to do this project,” he said.
Once open, the tunnel will replace an at-grade crossing, creating a much safer route for all university guests. It will also greatly improve traffic flow along one of the busiest roads in the city. People driving to campus will no longer have to make U-turns on opposite ends nor wait several minutes for a train to cross.
Liberty is fully funding the tunnel project and is also sharing in the costs of having the intersection reworked. Liberty is already constructing the new road that will lead through the tunnels to main campus.
“It will change the traffic flow on campus completely; this will become the main campus road,” Falwell said.
A 1,400-space parking garage is also under construction nearby.
“Most of the traffic will come into the tunnel, go directly into the parking garage, and never drive around campus like it does now,” Falwell said. “It will be a quieter campus, a more peaceful place for students to study, less traffic, less noise — that’s another big benefit.”
The tunnel is a further sign of growth as Liberty undertakes an ambitious $500 million campus rebuilding that includes plans for 16,000 residential students by 2020.
“Without this tunnel, I don’t think we could grow much bigger than we are now,” Falwell said.
Additional information, as well as timelapse images of construction, can be found at: http://www.liberty.edu/aboutliberty/?PID=24631&cam=stadium-tunnel.