VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. A new tunnel is coming to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at the Thimble Shoal Channel.
The CBBT Commission awarded the Dragados Team with a $755 million contract on Wednesday morning.
The project, set to begin in October of 2017, will create a parallel tunnel alongside the first tunnel that drivers travel through when heading towards the Eastern Shore.
The project is expected to take five years to complete. When its finished, the new tunnel will carry two lanes of southbound traffic and the existing tunnel will carry two lanes of northbound traffic.
CBBT officials say the construction will require tearing down and closing Virginia Originals and Chesapeake Grill. Their original plans to expand the island became cost prohibitive.
"It's disappointing," says Christopher Savvides, co-owner of the gift shop and restaurant since 2010. He says the CBBT Commission has included him and his wife in the discussion since the beginning, but about four weeks ago, they found out they would have to close for good.
"As much as I want to think, my wife and I, this is our island, our gift shop, our restaurant, it's part of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel and their priority is moving traffic from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore."
The Fishing Pier located by Virginia Originals will be renovated during the project and will re-open to the public in 2022, upon completion of the new tunnel.
Thomas Anderson, Director of Finance, says safety and driver accessibility are among the main goals of the project.
He says their facility does not have many viable alternatives. If there is any kind of disruption in the tunnel, or a need for repair or maintenance, they have to stop traffic.
The project will be funded through toll revenues, bonds, and a federal loan, according to Anderson. As a governmental entity, they operate like a business, so the project is not funded through any taxpayer money.