The National Local Technical Assistance Program Association (NLTAPA) is a not-for-profit organization committed to building the knowledge base and capacities of LTAP Centers. Held in July in Portsmouth, Virginia and hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Regional LTAP group, the national conference was attended by nearly 200 transportation professionals from around the country.  Promoting best practices and shared perspectives through a variety of panel presentations, the conference covered such topics as urban and rural pedestrian safety, EDC safety initiatives, innovative outreach methods and creative course delivery. The next NLTAPA conference is scheduled for July 23-26, 2018 in New Orleans.

Featured Presentation: The Elizabeth River Tunnels Project – A Project Management Success Story

The Elizabeth River Tunnels project represents a significant public-private partnership (P3) design-build (D-B) highway project in Virginia, an innovative approach promoted by the FHWA’s Every Day Counts (EDC) initiative. Under a comprehensive agreement, VDOT maintains ownership of the infrastructure and oversees Elizabeth River Crossings (ERC) OpCo LLC activities.  ERC financed and built the facilities, then will operate and maintain them for a 58-year concession period. Located between the cities of Portsmouth and Norfolk in Hampton Roads, the project comprises the development, design, construction, rehabilitation, finance and operation of several major tunnels and expressways:

Midtown Tunnel
The original U.S. 58 Midtown Tunnel is the most heavily travelled two-lane road east of the Mississippi. Since it opened in 1962, population has increased nearly 70% and tunnel usage by 600%. Rehabilitation efforts focused on structural, fire and safety improvements.

New Midtown Tunnel
The new two-lane Midtown Tunnel opened in June 2016, 4 months ahead of schedule. Adjacent to the existing Midtown Tunnel under the Elizabeth River, the tunnel is comprised of 11 concrete elements, which were towed down the Chesapeake Bay to the Project site in Portsmouth for immersion and placement under the Elizabeth River. The design features state-of-the-art safety features including a separate escape corridor, jet fans, deluge system, fire sensors, fire alarms/extinguishers/hose connections, motorist aid phones, fireproofing and video monitoring for traveler safety.

Downtown Tunnel
The Downtown Tunnel carries the highest traffic volume of any tunnel in Hampton Roads. Rehabilitation efforts addressed tunnel fireproofing, jet fan ventilation and LED tunnel lighting providing brighter lighting and using less energy.

MLK Expressway
The new MLK Expressway is designed to relieve congestion at regional choke points and better connect Hampton Roads communities. This new highway extends the VA 164 to I-264 in Portsmouth, providing a direct route between the U.S. 58 Midtown Tunnel and the I-264 Downtown Tunnel, and creates a new alternate route between the Peninsula and the Southside of Hampton Roads.

As two of the conference’s keynote speakers, Jeff Minnix (COO of Elizabeth River Crossing OpCo LLC) and Bradley Weidenhammer, PE, (Major Projects Engineer with VDOT), discussed the value of working together as a public-private partnership on this D-B initiative. The team focused on open, honest communications, jumping on issues early and engaging around problem resolution. Meticulous planning and execution, supported by a strong safety culture, resulted in the entire project being delivered ahead of schedule and budget with no lost time to accidents or injury.

Some of the project’s predicted regional benefits include:

  • average round trip savings of about 30 minutes a day, reducing gas emissions and fuel consumption
  • $1 billion of construction works built by local companies
  • 500 direct jobs and more than 1,000 indirect jobs created through local suppliers and vendors
  • regional economic development benefits estimated at $170 to $254 million.

One of the main challenges was to keep the public informed about project status, expected traffic delays and work zones in a timely manner. In addition to extensive public outreach initiatives, the partnership established a project website to provide project descriptions, FAQs, traffic impacts and press releases.

Visit the ERC website at for more project information.

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