U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Nov. 14 that Department of Transportation’s Build America Bureau will provide a $338.5 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan to finance the construction of a new tunnel at Thimble Shoal Channel on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
The Parallel Thimble Shoal Tunnel Project will construct a new 5,700-ft bored tunnel connecting two southbound trestles of the existing Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT), a 17.6-mile structure connecting the Hampton Roads area to Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
“The Build America Bureau is all about helping communities find ways to get infrastructure projects funded and built,” said Secretary Foxx. “The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a vital link for thousands of Virginian and U.S. coastal residents, and this loan will make it safer for travelers while reducing congestion and boosting the regional economy.”
Construction on the project is expected to begin in October 2017. In addition to the $338.5 million TIFIA loan, the project is being financed with senior bonds, a loan from the Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank as well as funds invested from the District’s General Fund. The CBBT’s existing bridge and tunnels will remain operational through construction. Construction is expected to take approximately five years, and substantial completion is projected to occur in May 2022.
The TIFIA loan program is administered by the Build America Bureau (Bureau), which was launched by Secretary Foxx earlier this year as a “one-stop shop” to help streamline credit and grant opportunities for communities as they work to fund infrastructure improvements. The Bureau also provides technical assistance and encourages innovative approaches to project planning, financing, delivery, and monitoring.
The Bureau consolidated the administration of the following DOT programs: the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing, the private activity bond program, the Outreach and Project Development functions of the Build America Transportation Investment Center, and the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies grant program. Since the beginning of the Build America series of initiatives in 2014, DOT’s credit programs have closed over $13 billion in financing for 24 projects with $31 billion in total project costs.
The CBBT first opened to traffic on April 15, 1964, providing one lane of travel in each direction. In 1990, the Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to construct an additional crossing parallel to the existing structure in order to double capacity. The addition of the second crossing was intended to, among other things, improve safety and to provide an alternate route in the event of a traffic interruption (e.g., lane closures due to a traffic accident). Construction of parallel bridges and trestles was completed in 1999, doubling capacity of the structure except for the two tunnels, each of which currently accommodates only one lane of traffic in each direction. The Project entails the first of the two tunnel expansions.