October 1, 2018 Accident on the CBBT
CAPE CHARLES, VA – On October 1, we experienced a single vehicle accident that occurred around 11:00 a.m. in the northbound lane of Thimble Tunnel. A tractor-trailer hauling a piece of heavy equipment struck the tunnel ceiling and then the equipment fell into the roadway. No one was hurt in the accident.
The vehicle was being operated by Chesapeake Tunnel Joint Venture, the company that is constructing the new parallel tunnel at Thimble Shoal Channel. CTJV was moving a piece of large construction equipment from One Island to Two Island when the accident occurred. They did not have to travel through the toll lanes so their height was not checked by our usual system.
The facility was closed in both directions until 3:20 p.m., while we attempted to clean up the debris and to remove the tractor trailer and equipment. The first two attempts were unsuccessful. While we worked on a revised plan to safely remove the vehicle and equipment, we made the decision to begin alternating traffic northbound and southbound around the scene of the accident. This is a process that we utilize frequently at night while work is being conducted in either of our two tunnels. Generally, it adds about 15-20 minutes to a customer’s trip.
We were motivated by the knowledge that our customers have no viable alternative to this route. A series of events conspired to delay travelers far beyond anything that we would have anticipated. Navigating around the scene proved far more difficult for customers driving larger vehicles given the limited 10-foot lane width. We now know that 20% more customers were traveling southbound versus northbound yesterday. Usually, the proportion is close to 50/50. Additionally, numerous customers experienced car trouble of their own after being delayed for such an extended period which compounded the delays for everyone.
At around 9:30 p.m., we prioritized only southbound customers to alleviate the traffic delays. At 10 p.m., the entire facility was closed again and we continued to expedite traffic until all customers were able to exit the CBBT.
Around midnight on October 2, another attempt was made to extract the tractor-trailer and construction equipment. This attempt was ultimately successful and we were able to fully reopen to traffic around 3:30 a.m.
We understand that many of our customers suffered extreme inconveniences and for that, we apologize. While we are legally unable to provide a toll relief fund given our legislative enablement and bond contracts, CTJV, the responsible party for this accident is setting up a toll relief fund for travelers who were inconvenienced. More details about the toll relief fund will be released as soon as they become available.