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A tunnel project critical to the Virginia Beach region’s mobility grid is receiving a boost from the federal government.
The U.S. Department of Transportation recently announced it provided a loan of up to $338.6 million to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel District.
The Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan is meant to expand access at the tunnel for an area consisting of residential, commercial, military and tourism sections.
Specifically, the loan would assist with the financing of a 5,700-foot tunnel connecting two southbound trestles of the existing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. That 17.6-mile corridor links the Norfolk and Virginia Beach areas to Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Due to its proximity to the shore, summer is its peak travel season, with significant traffic on the weekends.
The project is meant to address DOT priorities, such as safety and economic growth. According to U.S. DOT, the loan would generate savings of nearly $60 million. And U.S. DOT anticipates the loan will mitigate a reduction in toll revenues credited to the pandemic. It also would reinstate a capital expenditure program and rehabilitation projects that had been postponed.
“The bureau is pleased to support the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Parallel Thimble Shoal Tunnel project by refinancing the original loan to take advantage of lower interest rates,” said Build America Bureau Executive Director Morteza Farajian. “Today’s announcement will help the community save millions of dollars, address the economic harm caused by the pandemic, and keep important public works projects moving forward.”
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel consists of more than 12 miles of low-level trestle, two one-mile tunnels each running beneath a shipping channel, two bridges, almost two miles of causeway, as well as four man-made islands and more than five miles of approach roads, according to background U.S. DOT provided.
U.S. DOT’s Build America Bureau has dedicated more than $36.2 billion in financing through the TIFIA credit program. According to U.S. DOT, “The bureau offers credit programs, technical assistance, and best practices in project planning, financing, delivery and operation.”
A recently enacted $1 trillion federal infrastructure law expands project eligibility for the TIFIA loan program. That expansion is expected to facilitate the completion of projects dedicated with expediting the movement of freight through supply chains. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg addressed supply chain concerns during a recent visit to Virginia. “Decades of underinvestment plus unprecedented demand, plus the pandemic that we’re facing right now have all conspired to create a perfect storm of pressure on our goods-movement systems in this country,” the secretary said on Dec. 3, highlighting the private sector’s role in the supply chain. “Those private systems run on public infrastructure. That’s why we have a responsibility to make sure that we’re doing our part to help.”
Virginia Democratic Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine praised Congress and President Joe Biden for linking funding in the $1 trillion infrastructure law for projects in their home state.
“The bipartisan infrastructure law is delivering real, hard-fought wins to communities across the commonwealth and the nation to maintain our roads, bridges and rail,” the senators said in a joint statement Dec. 2. “Already we are seeing the impact this meaningful legislation will have throughout Virginia.”
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