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U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Public Affairs, Washington, D.C., www.dot.gov/affairs/briefing.htm - News

FHWA 02-13
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Contact: Nancy Singer/Kelly Dollinger
Tel: 202-366-0660

FHWA Administrator Mendez Participates in Kickoff for Elizabeth River Tunnels Project

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez today joined state and local officials in Portsmouth for the official kick-off of the Elizabeth River Tunnels Project that will increase safety and reduce congestion in Virginia's Hampton Roads area.

"This project is part of President Obama's vision of an American built to last," said Secretary LaHood. "The new tunnel, combined with improvements to the existing tunnels, will ensure that travelers in the Hampton Roads region have better access to jobs, schools, and other destinations for generations to come."

The project will build a new Midtown Tunnel adjacent to the existing one between the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. The project also rehabilitates the existing Downtown and Midtown Tunnels, enhancing regional connectivity by extending the Martin Luther King (MLK) Expressway to I-264.

"The project is a perfect example of transportation infrastructure that enhances safety, mobility and the regional economy for years to come," said Administrator Mendez. "By both creating jobs and improving access to jobs through improved connectivity, the project supports economic growth."

When completed, capacity of the Midtown Tunnel will double and, with the extension of the MLK Expressway, drivers will easily access both tunnels, saving them time and frustration. Upgrades to the existing Midtown and Downtown tunnels will provide safer travel for the 120,000 drivers who use the two tunnels each day.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is pursuing the Downtown Tunnel/Midtown Tunnel/MLK Extension Project through a public-private partnership with Elizabeth River Crossings, LLC (ERC). ERC will be responsible for the financing, design, construction, tolling and ongoing operations and maintenance of the project over a 58-year concession term, although VDOT will maintain ownership of the project.

The $2.1 billion project relies on a $422 million Transportation Infrastructure Finance Innovation Act (TIFIA) loan awarded by the Department of Transportation in April 2012. DOT's TIFIA program helps leverage private capital resources to make much-needed transportation projects a reality. ERC will use toll revenue to repay the loan.

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