Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel Commission
Thimble Shoals Channel off Virginia coast would be site of anticipated new Chesapeake Bay tunnel crossing.

Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel Commission is developing a design-build procurement for a new tunnel to parallel one of two existing subsurface structures along the 23-mile toll crossing between Virginia Beach and the Delmarva Peninsula. The move follows the agency's late-April decision not to pursue an unsolicited public-private proposal from industry firms.

The project, to be funded by revenue bonds and a hoped-for TIFIA loan, would add a new one-mile tunnel at Thimble Shoals Channel, about 3.5 miles offshore.

Parallel Construction Consortium, led by infrastructure investment units of Skanska USA and Kiewit Corp., proposed the P3 approach last fall, after the commission began exploring alternate project delivery methods to accelerate construction.

The proposal called for a four-year process, beginning in 2016. While no construction cost was made public, the consortium said an earlier $794-million estimate "does not fully reflect the full cost of construction."

But Jeffrey B. Holland, the commission's executive director, says the lack of competing proposals subsequently solicited under Virginia's Public-Private Transportation Act led it to reject the offer.

"Price competition is crucial for achieving a financially successful project," he says.

A team led by design firm Moffat & Nichol is advising the commission. A Skanska spokeswoman says, while the decision is disappointing, "we understand [the] reasoning." The team is deciding whether to bid, he adds.

The original bay bridge and tunnel, opened in 1964, carries more than 10,000 vehicles each day, with higher volumes in summer.

Two one-mile tunnels provide channels up to 100 ft deep for shipping. Parallel, above-water segments were completed in 1995 for $250 million, with crossover trestles linking them to the existing tunnels.

Plans call for selection, by late July, of a design manager-construction manager to prepare bridging documents and be owner's representative.

Design-build-team RFQs could be issued by early 2016. Another unsolicited proposal during that period is possible, but Holland knows of none in development.