Naming Contest Underway Ahead of Bay Bridge Tunnel Construction

Tunnel Boring Machine

Work is about to begin on Hampton Roads’ new $756 million Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel— but first, the special machine used to bore the tunnel needs a name!

Tradition has it that no Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) can begin work until it’s been given a name. Workers in the early mining days looked to Saint Barbara, the patron saint for those who work underground, for protection. So TBMs usually get female names as a sign of good luck for the project ahead.

In this case, that project is excavating a one-mile-long, 42-foot-diameter tunnel under Thimble Shoal Channel in the lower Bay. The tunnel will run parallel to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel’s existing tunnel, which carries more than 4 million vehicles under the Bay each year.

The Bay Bridge Tunnel turned to local sixth-graders to come up with their most clever ideas for a name. Their submissions have been narrowed down to the top ten, and now it’s up to the public to vote for the final choice. The top ten are as follows:

  • Bessy the Boring Bufflehead
  • Chessie
  • Harriet
  • Katherine
  • Mary Jackson, Miracle Digger
  • Ms. Taylor
  • Tibi
  • Pocahontas
  • Soteria
  • Virginia

Voting started Monday, April 2 and continues through Friday, April 13 at 4:30 p.m. You can find out what’s behind each name choice and vote for your favorite daily by clicking here.

The new tunnel will be the first in the area to be bored straight through the bottom of the Bay. The existing tunnels were all made using an immersed tube method, where workers dug trenches, then lowered pre-built tunnel sections that were lowered into place.

The bored tunnel will see a lot less exposure to weather risks like wind and wave action during construction than an immersed tube tunnel would, and the process will cause less of a disturbance to to commercial ships and the military, which use Thimble Shoal Channel and the auxiliary channel regularly.

-Meg Walburn Viviano