LEAD757 Infrastructure Day
Our LEAD757 Class of 2023 had an exciting Infrastructure Day! One thing you need to know about Hampton Roads is that we have A LOT of infrastructure. From bridges to tunnels to bridge-tunnels, Hampton Roads is known for being a region with a lot of structural pieces and moving parts (literally). Our infrastructure makes us unique but that also comes with its own set of both challenges and opportunities. Today, we heard about both and learned about the many current projects being done to ensure our infrastructure is set for decades to come.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel
The day began at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel or the CBBT for short. This 17.6 miles of bridges and tunnels stretch on without a single stop sign, traffic light or intersection. It connects Hampton Roads to the Eastern Shore over the Chesapeake Bay and has been providing the only direct link to do so for over 50 years. It is such a unique piece of infrastructure and has even been designated as one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world!
While there, we had the exclusive opportunity to go on a tour of one of the facilities that directly supports the tunnel operations. Going up five floors, we saw a lot including the large fans and machines working to pump in oxygen and carbon dioxide out. The control room was probably my favorite spot on the tour. We were able to hear directly from a control room operator about the process of monitoring the tunnels and bridge sections along the 17 miles. We learned how the CBBT is monitoring the weather, the way they determine travel restrictions and even how they are using new technology to ensure the utmost safety for travelers.
One really epic experience my classmates and I had while at the CBBT was getting to go out on the catwalk. The catwalk is a little narrow arrow lifted several feet above the roadway and separated from the traffic by a railing. Stepping out on that catwalk was an experience! It was very WINDY as you would imagine and when traffic flew by, it was even windier, loud and just intense! Imagine standing there as a tractor-trailer truck whizzes by at 50+ mph. We were told not to reach over the railing for selfies and to be aware of extended mirrors on those big trucks! Thankfully, we were only out there long enough for a few photos and to say we did it!
The CBBT tour ended with a narrated windshield tour of the construction happening on the new tunnel. It was really neat to get a firsthand look at what is being done at the CBBT and to hear about the many moving parts that go into making it happen. I was impressed with it before and even more so now after knowing some really interesting facts and seeing it in operation.
The next portion of our LEAD757 Infrastructure Day consisted of hearing how well our region is working together especially when it comes to important infrastructure projects. We sat down with regional leaders that included Nancy Grden from the Hampton Roads Executive Roundtable, Shawn Avery with the Hampton Roads Workforce Council, Doug Smith from the Hampton Roads Alliance, Bob Crum of the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and the Hampton Roads Transportation Planning Organization and Bryan Stephens, our Hampton Roads Chamber President & CEO.
This group of regional leaders not only work really well together but they are friends too. This was evident in how much shared knowledge they have among them. They discussed the upcoming infrastructure projects and what is being done collectively across the region. Hearing from these leaders is exciting in my opinion as it reassures me about how well our region comes together to make sure that we have resources pulled to ensure our success. It really hit home the idea of how much there is going on in our region and how lucky we have to live somewhere so focused on constant improvement.
Our afternoon was full of briefings from industry leaders. We learned about projects pertaining to resiliency and flooding in the region especially in Norfolk. We were also briefed on the important work that is happening within the energy sector. From offshore to wind to hydrogen power, Hampton Roads is emerging as a powerhouse when it comes to energy.
We went from discussing energy to hearing about the many infrastructure projects taking place at our own Norfolk International Airport. I was personally thrilled to hear from the Norfolk Airport Executive Director, Mark Perryman, about the vision for expansion and growth. Our airport had its best year on record in 2022 and is poised to beat that in 2023. I am excited to learn that much work is being done to improve many of the airport processes that will directly and positively impact the everyday traveler. And welcome back to the much-loved PEOPLE MOVER! Our class was ecstatic to hear that it is coming back and will be better than ever! There was much to learn on the airport front and this briefing served as another reminder that Hampton Roads is working together to make our region better every single day.
At the conclusion of our LEAD757 Infrastructure Day was another interesting update. We heard about the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel (HRBT) construction project that is currently underway and on target at the tune of over 3 billion dollars. The HRBT project is a massive undertaking which will greatly relieve the traffic build up by expanding the number of lanes and amount of traffic that can move through it daily. To date, it is the largest highway construction project in the state’s history and quite the engineering feat.
LEAD757 Infrastructure Day
Infrastructure is important in general but it is absolutely vital to our region. Hampton Roads depends on the region working together to advocate for constantly improving infrastructure. Today’s session provided us with a wide variety of updates. It again encouraged me with how much work is being done in this area including how well the region works together when it comes to these important projects.
Special thanks to LEAD757 for another impactful program day and to the Hampton Roads Chamber for providing such an amazing leadership program opportunity to my classmates and me. Keep up with LEAD757 on social for even more updates!