Fire suppression system in Suffolk tunnel flawed

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 11, 2003

SUFFOLK (AP) – The fire suppression system in the Monitor-Merrimac Memorial Bridge-Tunnel is plagued with problems and may take millions of dollars to fix, transportation officials said.

The system was meant to be temporary when it was installed in 1992, but it has been the tunnel’s source of water ever since. Virginia Department of Transportation officials said the line tends to leak and could rupture when the tube’s main fire pump is turned on.

As a result, the pump is out of commission, forcing VDOT to rely on local fire departments to supply added pressure through pumper trucks.

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The problem could cost $5 million to fix, according to a VDOT report.

Jane S. Wimbush, VDOT’s Hampton Roads district administrator, said motorists are not at risk.

VDOT also has recently acknowledged problems in floodgates at two other area tunnels – the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel and the Midtown Tunnel between Norfolk and Portsmouth that flooded during Hurricane Isabel.

The Midtown Tunnel is scheduled to remain out of service until Oct. 18.