A Ribbon of Black: Paving the CBBT

Craig Rayfield, Quality Control Manager, Allan Myers

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel (CBBT) District initiated a multi-year paving project to repave the facility from the south toll plaza to the north toll plaza, both northbound and southbound. Allan Myers secured the winning bid for the project. The goal: an asphalt surface with a 20-year lifespan placed on this unique bridge-tunnel system.

The success of the project was recently highlighted by the Virginia Asphalt Association awarding it the Virginia Best Roadway award and the Golden Lute award, which is the highest honor a project can achieve in Virginia.

What makes this project unique is that all milling and paving operations occurred roughly 35 feet above the Chesapeake Bay. Work was done in single lane closure configurations over the original 75-foot concrete trestle built in the 1960s and the new 300-foot trestles were completed and opened to traffic in April 1999.

Once Allan Myers was awarded the contract, the team immediately developed detailed safety plans for approval by the CBBT District. Highway work is always dangerous, but working on a bridge deck with no place for traffic or crews to escape in the event of an incident brought a new focus to safety. When the time came for Maintenance of Traffic (MOT) setups and protection, nothing was left to chance. Additional signage was posted along with new barrels and cones for added visibility. A fleet of attenuator trucks was used to protect every operation in the work zones, and the CBBT police increased patrols as well. Myers developed specific routes for crews to access and egress the work zones and created staging areas for personal vehicles and equipment. The team used 24-hour MOT patrols when multiple closures on multiple trestles were required to allow for milling and paving operations along with cleanup operations, concrete deck repairs and joint repairs and installs. Allan Myers’s safety motto “Home Safe Tonight” was taken to new levels to ensure all workers went home safe each night.

The smoothness of the ride felt by the traveling public, called the camber, is an important consideration when paving a roadway. The original contract did not have a camber specification, but Allan Myers added a requirement to the contract to improve the camber by a minimum of 20%. All the trestles were tested, pre-mill ride data was evaluated, and targets and goals were established for the paving crews.

Trestle C southbound after milling and cleanup, ready to be tacked and edges sealed. You can see the drain outlets that had to be sealed with foam backing to prevent material from leaving the deck.

Kicking Off With Milling

Once all crew members received safety training, the milling operation started on the C trestle southbound outside travel lane with multiple milling crews to remove all the asphalt material down to the concrete deck. This process was started by a support crew installing drain protection in each drain slot to prevent millings from falling into the cable trays and then into the Chesapeake Bay. Once the material was removed and decks were cleaned, any needed concrete repairs were made. Once both layers were completed, the bridge support crew cut out the asphalt and prepped each joint for the installation of elastomeric joint material every 300 feet full-width across the deck.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel District.

Trestle C southbound after milling and cleanup, ready to be tacked and edges sealed. You can see the drain outlets that had to be sealed with foam backing to prevent material from leaving the deck.

Myers then kicked off the 2020 paving season by starting the C and D trestles northbound. The CBBT District permitted Myers to close the full span from Island 4 to just before the northside toll plaza, which entailed moving traffic to a two-way configuration on the southbound lanes for more than seven miles. Three MOT setup trucks were used the night of the traffic switch to quickly remove the seven-plus miles of lane closure. With every barrel and cone being triple weighted, it was quite an undertaking.

Trestle C northbound paving operations—traffic was put back into the original configuration with 2-way traffic on the southbound C trestle. This allowed for a safe work zone due to the northbound trestle having no shoulder.

C and D trestles northbound were the first sections where the team encountered the angle iron end dams on each of the 75-foot bridge decks. The milling on this section compared to the southbound section was slow and methodical. The mill had to pick up every 75 feet to prevent any damage to the metal dams. Each of the joints then had to be milled using skid steer milling attachments and any remaining material chipped out. Once the joints and deck were milled and cleaned, everything was inspected. Any needed repairs were made to concrete decks and joints were cut and new sections welded into place as needed. Once the section was approved for paving, the leveling course was installed. The method to install this course was planned out and carefully executed by the crew to reduce the camber feel and to level out the spans so the final course could be installed in a consistent and level 1 1/2-inch lift. Myers also wanted to be able to pave over all the joints in the section to ensure a smooth and consistent final layer. To ensure the CBBT District was completely satisfied with the results, a section was milled out and repaved to confirm the ride they were looking for on the final layer.

Allan Myers repeated the process that was learned on northbound trestle C to ensure that trestle B and trestle A northbound exceeded the requirements and high standards that were set upon the completion of trestle C. Roughly 668 joints on the northbound trestle were milled, cleaned and paved over.

Trestle C northbound being paved.

Strict Moisture Control

The southbound trestle offered a simpler approach for the milling and paving crews due to the method of construction of the new sections. Each southbound span was 300 feet in length and did not have metal angle joints. The method used for the separation between spans was an elastomeric joint compound. These joints allowed the milling crew to mill through them so once the deck was cleaned, the joint areas were covered with strips of plywood to prevent any asphalt material from dropping through during the installation of the leveling course and the final layer. When the paving operation was complete, the bridge support crew would lay out the area and saw-cut the material to be removed. Forms were then installed to allow the elastomeric compound to be placed to form the end joints. Each southbound joint required mixing and installation of roughly 300 gallons of material. The area had to be completely voided of moisture. Once the mixing started, the material had about 30 minutes of workability before starting to set up. It was a significant operation with more than 180 of these joints to prep and install.

This project offered many unique challenges, from safety to scheduling the majority of the work during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. The Allan Myers team held numerous planning sessions prior to the first shift with the field managers, superintendents, safety managers and quality control personnel to ensure that the aggressive schedule could be met. All plans and procedures were approved by the CBBT District and the CBBT Police to ensure the team provided world-class performance on the project. The Myers team managed the factors within their control, but the weather was often unpredictable. Storms seemingly appeared from nowhere and the CBBT District had very strict wind restrictions. Even on sunny, clear days, wind conditions could prevent trucks from being on the bridge. A passing shower at night could prevent a paving shift due to the extreme requirement with moisture or even an elastomeric shift for the joints.

With thorough planning and proper mitigation of the challenges outlined, the project resulted in an average IRI value of 59.69 for smoothness. Allan Myers provided world-class results to the CBBT District for this most unique project, ensuring that one of the Engineering Wonders of the World will be protected from the elements for many years moving forward.

Milling southbound trestle E.
Trestle F southbound milling operation.

Allan Myers would like to thank the following crews for their participation in the project that helped to make it an overwhelming success:

Nick Giorgio: Project Superintendent
Craig Rayfield: Paving Quality Control Manager
Mike Anderson: Paving Superintendent
Scott Durgin: Paving Field Manager
James Markham: Paving Field Manager
Junior Guilliams: Milling Field Manager
Robert Heater: Milling Field Manager
Robert Mack: Bridge Field Manager
Chesapeake Asphalt Plant & Lab
Allan Myers Trucking Division
Allan Myers Safety Division
Allan Myers Administrative staff (Glen Allen and Chesapeake offices)
Allan Myers Maintenance Toano Shop and Field Mechanics