Virginian-Pilot pays tribute to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Folks in Hampton Roads are mighty proud of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that bridges the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. They call it things like “the Eighth Wonder of the World,” which seems like so much hyperbole.

Until you drive across it. I did that while in the area on vacation once in 1991 and just fell in love with the CBBT — and the entire region. That’s one reason we leaped at the chance to move to Virginia Beach 11 years ago.

These pictures are from the last crossing I made, back in 2009. Most of the project is actually a causeway, suspended just a few feet above the water. At two points, though, you land on a tiny manmade island and then drive through the island…


…and under one of three major shipping channels…


…to emerge through another manmade island and back into the causeway.

This is looking across one of those channels, with the roadway below those rocks and linking up with the island in the distance.


That was a particularly quiet morning. It’s not unusual to see giant container ships or even aircraft carriers scurrying though those waters.

The bridge-tunnel turns 50 today (Tuesday, April 15). To commemorate this, the Virginian-Pilot ran a huge story Sunday recounting the construction of this massive project.


Click that — or any page here today — for a much larger look.

The print version of the story — written by the Pilot‘s Dave Forster — was illustrated with vintage file photos of enormous devices built especially for the project.


The sections of tunnel — or “tube” — were actually built in Texas and then shipped to the area via barge. The picture at the bottom of that page shows what it was like after the sections were assembled but before ventilation apparati and the roadbed were installed.

Here’s a double-page spread.


In particular, I love the timeline across the top featuring a profile of the bridge.

I also like this picture of the Village People.


Oh, wait. Those were construction workers. My bad.

Also my bad: Failing to ask who designed this. As soon as I find out, I’ll add it here. It was the amazing Sam Hundley.

As nice as all that is, the highlight of Sunday’s presentation was, perhaps, this full-page graphic drawn by my old colleague Bob Voros. Again, click this for a much larger look:


As he does from time to time, Bob documented his process and was kind enough to share it with us.

He writes:

When I got this assignment, my first thought was to find examples of graphics that others have done on bridges, tunnels and similar type of construction projects. So I started to search at the NewsPageDesigners website for infographics that were tagged with bridge, tunnel, construction, etc. and downloaded any that I thought would be useful to get an idea from. Then I did a Google image search to see if there was anything else that might pop up that would be helpful.

Here are some examples of what I found:



All are wonderful graphics. Even the ones that I couldn’t read because they weren’t in English.

My next step was to watch these two DVDs on the construction of the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel:


The DVD on the left is very dated — it was originally produced as the project was being built in the early 1960s. It has the grainy footage and monotone narration that took at least three cups of coffee to get through.

But the DVD on the right was much more helpful. It’s one of the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” series, back when the History Channel had shows about history.

The first time I viewed this was just to see what was on it: I realized I was going to get a lot of information for the graphic from it. I watched it a second time more carefully, paying attention to what images I might need to capture — which I did on the third viewing.

Then, I watched it one last time to take specific notes:


Now, I usually start making some rough sketches at this point but I didn’t get the DVDs until later on in the process. I did have a brief meeting with reporter Dave Forster, his editor Carl Fincke and our presentation team leader, Paul Nelson, before this where Dave generally laid out how the CBBT was constructed 50 years ago. He made the point that there were three machines that were key to the construction process – The Big D, The Two-Headed Monster and The Slab Setter. I needed to show all of them, a map of the CBBT and how the tunnels and islands that the bridges that make up the project were constructed.

So really, I only did one sketch:


I decided the first thing I should put together was the satellite aerial photo map that would go on the right side of the graphic. I used aerial images from Bing, pasting screen shots together in Photoshop.

Here’s what that looked like:


The image is bigger than I needed, because there was talk of showing where the other two bridge-tunnels in the region are located in relation to the CBBT. That idea was dropped, but not until after I layered all of this Photoshop. Oh, well…

The next step was to start drawing some of the objects to be used in the graphic. I downloaded a PDF from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel  District website – – that had a page on major components and structures. I used this and other diagrams and images I had captured off the DVDs to draw all the elements I would need to be in the graphic:


Here’s what the graphic looked like early on before some of the elements were drawn…


…and here it is later on in the process:


As you can see, I moved the waterline down a bit and placed the circle diagrams that focused on the construction of the piles and roadway above it.

While working on this, I realized that the pilings are basically the backbone of the CBBT. The project would have failed if the first step of constructing nearly 15 miles of low-level trestle roadway could not be achieved.

Basically, all that was left at this point was fine-tuning all the illustrations and writing the copy to fit and then to get everything copy-edited.

Here, again, is the final version:


Bob continues:

Some of the big numbers were changed: I had initially totaled up costs and other figures for the original CBBT construction in the early 1960s and that of the parallel crossing construction done in the late 1990s. It was decided to focus on the original construction totals only for the big numbers with the parallel crossing figures noted below them.

The online version of the story features not only Dave’s story, but also pictures by L. Todd Spencer and a video by the Pilot‘s Brian J. Clark. Find all that here.

(Oh, and here’s a tip for those of you who are burned out on nasty comments on stories: When you’re done reading that and watching the lovely videos, keep scrolling to the end. There are several wonderful comments from readers who had family connections to the construction and administration staff of the CBBT project.)

A native of Syracuse, N.Y., Bob Voros is a 1989 graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego. He spent five years at the Syracuse Post-Standard and two more at the San Antonio Light before joining the Pilot in 1993.

Bob gets frequent mention in my slideshows and here in the blog, because a) I’ve worked with him closely and b) because I appreciate how thorough he is with his work. You won’t find a better visual journalist anywhere, period.

A few other posts in which I’ve showcased his work:

  • January 2011: Step-by-step through a complex megagraphic with Bob Voros
  • January 2012: Virginian-Pilot plays horrific story, heartbreaking picture, above today’s nameplate
  • March 2012: The 150th anniversary of the Battle of the Ironclads
  • April 2012: How the Virginian-Pilot covered Friday’s Navy jet crash
  • April 2012: An extraordinary diagram to help explain an extraordinary event
  • August 2012: Bob Voros on why AP graphics needs a copy editor
  • August 2012: The Virginian-Pilot’s annual Fantasy Football preview guide
  • September 2013: Friday’s UFO reports explained, five days in advance

Find Bob’s portfolio here and his Twitter feed here.

Average daily circulation for the Virginian-Pilot is 142,476.

Birthdays for Tuesday, April 15

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to seven excellent visual journalists…


Deborah Block is associate brand manager for Del Monte Foods in San Francisco, Calif. A 2003 graduate of Connecticut College, Deborah earned a master’s degree in journalism from Miami University in 2005 and spent a year as a designer for the Prague Post in the capital city of the Czech Republic. She also spent three years as a features designer for the St. Petersburg Times before heading back to school at Indiana University in Bloomington to work on an MBA in marketing and management. Which she earned after studying overseas at Università Bocconi in Milan, Italy. She started work with Del Monte in 2010. Deborah turns 31 today.


Dan Callahan is a marketing and public relations expert and the founder of the American Mustache Institute of St. Louis, which raised money for Challenger Baseball, a league for disabled kids. A 1978 graduate of Marquette University, Dan spent a year freelancing for the Milwaukee Sentinel and then four years as a reporter for the Waukesha Freeman. He spent time at Delta Dental of Minnesota and National Car Rental, among other companies. For the last few months, he’s been at BeyondAlpha.


Dierdre Fernandes is a reporter for the Boston Globe. A 1997 graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., Deirdre worked for the Kinston (N.C.) Free Press and the Winston-Salem (N.C.) Journal before joining the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk, Va., in 2003. She moved to the Globe in 2012, where she covers the western suburbs. Find her Twitter feed here. Deirdre turns 39 today.


Waldimar Pelser is editor of Rapport, a national Afrikaans-language Sunday paper in South Africa and published out of Johannesburg. A 2000 graduate of Stellenbosch University, Waldimar earned a master’s degree from that same institution. He then spent time as a reporter and then a bureau chief for die Burger, the Afrikaans-language daily in Cape Town before shipping out to the University of Oxford in England to earn a second master’s. In 2004, he became a reporter for Beeld of Johannesburg, covering elections all over the continent before being named chief of Media24′s Lagos bureau in 2007. In 2009, he was named news editor of Beeld. He was named editor of a short-lived weekly news magazine, NewsNow, in 2011. He moved to Rapport in 2012 as senior deputy editor and was promoted to his current position last summer. Find his Twitter feed here.


Claire Regan is the associate managing editor of the Staten Island (N.Y.) Advance. A 1980 graduate of Staten Island’s Wagner College, Claire has been an assistant professor of journalism at Wagner since 1983. Last year, she edited a book: Hurricane Sandy: The Storm that Changed Staten Island.


Jeremy Steele is executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association in Lansing. A 2003 graduate of Michigan State, Jeremy worked as a reporter for the Port Huron Times Herald, the Lansing/Jackson Business Review and the Lansing State Journal before leaving newspapers in 2009 to work media relations. He began teaching as an adjunct at his alma mater in 2008 and teaches there still. Find his Twitter feed here.


John Warren is public relations manager for the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Va., home of the turret of the famous Civil War-era vessel Monitor. A 1992 graduate of Averett University in Danville, Va., John spent two years as night metro editor and copy editor for the Roanoke Times before joining the Virginian-Pilot in 1999 as a reporter and, eventually, a columnist. He left three years ago to run a old-fashioned general store and picture framing shop — and, practically, a cultural center — in an historical old building in Gloucester, Va.  Find its Facebook fan page here. John turns 45 today.

Deborah, Jeremy, Waldimar, Dan, Deirdre, John and Claire share a birthday with actors Emma Charlotte Duerre Watson, Emma Thompson, Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Victoria Montgomery; musicians David “Dave” Edmunds, Keidran Jones (better known as Iyaz), Roy Linwood Clark and Bessie Smith; sports greats Tim Thomas (hockey), Kunishige Kamamoto (soccer), Daniel Way (skateboarding) and Michael Jerome Cooper (basketball); writer Henry James, columnist Ponce Kiah Michelle Cruse (better known as Heloise), politician Nikita Sergeyevich Khruschev and inventor+artist Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci.

In addition to the deadline to file an income tax return here in the U.S., today is National Library Day, Bicycle Day, Jackie Robinson Day, McDonald’s Day, Rubber Eraser Day and World Art Day. Seriously.

Best wishes, all! Have a truly great birthday!

What’s a bubba to do?

The good news: You win the Masters golf tournament for the second time in three years.

The bad news: Your hometown newspaper puts you at the top of page one the next day and then covers you up with a dang-blasted sticker ad:


Well, it certainly defeats the purpose of putting him on page one — that’s for sure. I doubt this helped Gannett sell copies of the Pensacola News Journal this morning.

As someone pointed out via Twitter: The insurance ad says “Call me for a free consultation” and then doesn’t even cite a phone number. If you’re going to have your face on page one blotted out by an ad, at least it should be a competently designed ad.

Thanks to ESPN’s Darren Rovell for retweeting this today. And to my old colleague Eddie Wooten of the Greensboro, N.C., News & Record for retweeting that.

(Full disclosure: Many papers use these types of sticker ads, including my current one.)

  • Sticker ads can sometimes cover up a vital part of your headline.
  • Sticker ads can also create uncomfortable — but hilarious — juxtapositions with editorial content.
  • You know what’s even worse than a sticker ad? A Spadea around page one and a sticker ad, on the same day. That team-up covers a good 65 to 70 percent of your above-the-fold presentation. The Virginian-Pilot did that here and here.
  • Last August, we saw something new: Fake sticker ads.

Birthdays for Monday, April 14

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to four wonderful visual journalists…


Jackie Combs-Nelson is an instructor at Yoga for Every Body in Chicago, Ill. A graduate of Cal State-Fullerton, Jackie spent five years as assistant Sunday editor for the Orange Coast Daily Pilot, nearly four years as graphics editor of the Long Beach Press-Telegram and nearly three years as associate editor for design of the Sacramento Union before moving to the Chicago Tribune in 1983. She worked at the Tribune for 23 years, serving as a graphics coordinator, assistant news editor and assistant Sunday news editor. Jackie was a founding member of the Society for News Design and served as president in 1991. She took a buyout from the Trib in 2006 and has been happily teaching yoga ever since. In addition, she coordinates work of the St. Cyprian’s Food Pantry, which can serve up to 110 people a day, she says.


Sameh Elkashef is art director at al Ahram, a newspaper in Cairo, Egypt. A grauate of Ain Shams University in Qena, Sameh turns 36 today.


Melissa Jordan is a marketing and web producer for the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit system. A 1985 graduate of the University of Georgia, Melissa spent 13 years as a reporter, editor and assistant bureau chief for the Associated Press in Minneapolis and San Francisco. She moved to the San Jose Mercury News in 2000 as assistant business editor and became senior editor for recruiting and training three years later. She left the Bay Area News Group to join BART in 2008.


Greg Shriver is assistant managing editor for the Star of Winchester, Va. A 1985 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Greg spent time at the Fond du Lac Reporter and the Wausau Daily Herald before becoming a copy editor and designer for the Des Moines Register in 2001. He moved to Virginia in 2008. Greg turns 51 today.

Melissa, Sameh, Greg and Jackie share a birthday with actors Adrien Brody, Bradley Harold Gerstenfeld (better known as Brad Garrett), Michael Anthony Hall, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Abigail Kathleen Breslin, Richard Jeni, Julie Frances Christie, Rodney Stephen “Rod” Steiger and Arthur John Gielgud; musicians Loretta Webb (better known as Loretta Lynn) and Richard Hugh “Ritchie” Blackmore (of Deep Purple); TV producer Gerry Anderson; policeman Francesco Vincent “Frank” Serpico; author Erich Anton Paul von Däniken; sports greats Anderson da Silva (boxing), Roberto DeVicenzo (golf), Peter Edward Rose, Gregory Alan “Greg” Maddux and David Christopher “Dave” Justice (all three baseball); presumed murder victim Chandra Ann Levy; comic book artist Dave Gibbons and comic book writer and artist Daniel Gillespie “Dan” Clowes.

In addition to Passover — which begins at sunset — today is Dictionary Day, National Dolphin Day, National Pecan Day, Pan American Day, the International Moment of Laughter and the Global Day of Action on Military Spending. Seriously.

Oh, and don’t forget to stay up late tonight and watch the lunar eclipse. Find the correct times in your region here.

Best wishes, all! Have an excellent birthday!

Birthdays for Sunday, April 13

Here’s wishing the happiest of birthdays to a pair of wonderful visual journalists…


Karen Park is a project manager for What’s Up Interactive in Atlanta, Ga. A 1992 graduate of the University of Kansas, Karen spent two years as a copy editor for the Spartanburg, S.C., Herald-Journal and two more as a copy editor and designer for the Detroit Free Press before moving to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1999 as a sports copy editor. She became manager of the design desk in 2001 and then editor for the AJC‘s Better Health section in 2005. In 2007, Karen was named senior editor for training and recruiting. She left the AJC in 2011 and started in her current job that August. Karen is also is co-owner of Letter K Photography in Atlanta. Find her personal blog here and her Twitter feed here.


Chris Strach is marketing manager and visual director for DermaQuest Skin Therapy in Hayward, Calif. A graduate of the Academy of Art, Chris spent three years as chief illustrator for the San Francisco Examiner before moving to the East Bay Business Times in 2005 as design editor. He was named business design director of the San Jose Mercury News in 2007. In 2010, he went to work for Oracle as lead designer. He went freelance for a couple of years before catching on in his current position in 2012. Find his web site here and his news design portfolio here. Find his Twitter feed here.

Chris and Karen share a birthday with actors Richard Bartlett “Rick” Schroder Jr., Jonathan Gregory Brandis, Paul Anthony Sorvino, Ronald N. “Ron” Perlman, Peter R. Moffett (better known as Peter Davison), Donald James Yarmy (better known as Don Adams), Lyle Wesley Waggoner, Tony Lee Dow and Harold Clifford Keel (better known as Howard Keel); musicians Albert Greene (better known as Al Green), Max Weinberg, Lowell Thomas George, William “Bill” Conti, Robert Peapo “Peabo” Bryson and David Lubega (better known as Lou Bega); sports greats Daniel Sexton “Dan” Gurney (auto racing), Davis Milton Love III (golf), and Hunter Pence (baseball); YouTube-based comedian Brandon Allan Hardesty; chess master Garry Kimovich Weinstein (better known as Garry Kasparov); Wild West outlaw Robert Leroy Parker (better known as Butch Cassidy); playwright Samuel Barclay Beckett and founding father Thomas Jefferson.

In addition to Palm Sunday, today is Scrabble Day, Youth Day and the Global Day to End Child Sexual Abuse. Seriously.

Best wishes, you two! Have an excellent birthday today!