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.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Commission (CBBT) selected a team led by Jacobs Engineering Group, Pasadena, Calif., to serve as design manager for a new design-build tunnel. The project will parallel one of two existing subsurface structures along the 23-mile toll crossing at Thimble Shoals Channel between Virginia Beach, Va., and the Delmarva Peninsula.

The project cost was not disclosed. But the decision to build the tunnel using design-build follows CBBT's decision in April to reject an unsolicited public-private partnership proposal offered by a team headed by Skanska Infrastructure Development and Kiewit Development Co.; the commission had deemed insufficient the proposed project's estimated cost of $800 million.

Due to the absence of additional proposals, the commission expressed concern about a lack of competitive pricing.

Major partners on the Jacobs team include two tunnel designers—the Vancouver, British Columbia, branch of COWI, whose parent company is based in Denmark; and HNTB, Kansas City, Mo.— along with several small businesses: Capital Project Strategies, Reston, Va.; Solstice Environmental, Virginia Beach; Crofton Diving Corp., Portsmouth, Va.; and tunnel consultant Walter C. Grantz, Virginia Beach.

The Jacobs team was shortlisted along with a team led by Parsons Transportation Group, Pasadena, to prepare bridging documents and serve as owner’s representative for the new 1-mile tunnel, located about 3.5 miles off Virginia Beach. The Parsons team's members included Capita Symonds, RK&K, Kimley Horn and Schnabel Engineering.

The new tunnel will link above-water segments that were completed in 1995, alongside the original 23-mile 1960s-era crossing. The tunnel will expand capacity and improve safety, says CBBT. Currently, crossing trestles connect the parallel segments to the original two-lane tunnels located 100 feet beneath the surface.

“Jacobs and its partners will be unable to participate in the bidding for the design-build work,” says Robert Johnson, CBBT director of maintenance. “Parsons and the other firms that expressed interest remain eligible.”

The selection of a design manager is the latest step in CBBT’s efforts to accelerate delivery of a parallel Thimble Shoals Tunnel.

CBBT plans to finance the project using a TIFIA loan and commission-issued revenue bonds that will be paid off through user tolls.

Approximately 10,000 vehicles use the bridge-tunnel each day, with higher volumes during the summer tourist season.

Currently, the commission is overseeing completion of an environmental assessment, preliminary design work, traffic and revenue studies, request for qualifications and request for proposal documents.

A formal RFP for a design-build contractor is expected out in the second half of 2015, with final award set for the summer of 2016.