HRBT Expansion Project Achieves Key Milestone as the Tunnel Boring Machine is Completed

NORFOLK, VA – The HRBT Expansion Project reached another milestone as Mary, the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), achieved completion of the Factory Acceptance Test (FAT) Friday, May 21. The project’s design-build contractor, Hampton Roads Connector Partners (HRCP), hired Herrenknecht to manufacture the TBM in Germany. The FAT was the final stage of the manufacturing process, which allows for a comprehensive review and testing of the TBM’s capabilities at the manufacturer’s site prior to delivery and commissioning.

The FAT was conducted in order to demonstrate that all systems function as designed and to address any adjustments needed while the machine is still at the factory before the TBM is shipped to its final destination at HRBT. The FAT is a rigorous process that took place over several weeks as engineers from HRCP, examined and tested every component of Mary.

“Completing the Factory Acceptance Test means that Mary the TBM is one step closer to starting excavation on VDOT’s first ever bored tunnels. The new twin tunnels are the centerpiece of the HRBT Expansion Project,” said James Utterback, Project Director for the HRBT Expansion Project.

With the FAT completed, HRCP has verified hundreds of hydraulic, electrical, mechanical, and safety features of the TBM, which is 430-feet long and 46-feet in diameter. Mary will now be disassembled for shipment to the South Island of the HRBT. She is expected to arrive later this fall. After re-assembly and final testing, Mary will begin boring in mid-2022.

“The successful completion of the Factory Acceptance Test marks an important milestone in the design-build phase of the HRBT Expansion Project and we are very proud of the work accomplished by Herrenknecht and the HRCP JV Team to get us to this point. Preparations are now underway on the South Island to receive Mary the TBM later this year and we look forward to putting her to work in mid-2022 as she begins boring the first of two new tunnels connecting the South Island and the North Island of the HRBT,” said Juan Miguel Perez, Project Executive for HRCP.

The TBM cutter head paint design is a creative representation of the Hampton Roads flag and the Hampton Roads Transportation Accountability Commission (HRTAC) logo. The blue represents the maritime aspects of the region, while the green signifies the land-based agriculture and industry. There are 14 stars on the front of the TBM, representing each of the HRTAC member cities and counties.“The HRBT project shows how VDOT and HRTAC work together to achieve a greater vision for Hampton Roads. The TBM cutter head paint design reflects the unprecedented regional cooperation that made funding possible for the HRBT Expansion Project through HRTAC,” said Kevin Page, Executive Director of HRTAC. 

Mary was selected as the winning name for the TBM in February 2021 when St. Gregory the Great Catholic School was announced as the winning contest entry in honor of Mary Winston Jackson. Known for being the first African American female engineer at NASA and a native of Hampton, Virginia, the TBM proudly bears her name.

The HRBT Expansion Project will widen I-64 from near Settlers Landing Road in Hampton to the I-564 Interchange in Norfolk. The project includes the addition of twin two-lane bored tunnels, new marine trestle bridges, and bridge and roadway widening along 10 miles of I-64. For more information, visit the project website at

ABOVE: HRBT Expansion Project – “Mary” The TBM, Drone Flyover Video

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