Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Infrastructure Chronicles -- Volume 4

Regular readers know that I am an infrastructure fanatic. They have either learned to tolerate that or quickly click to another site when they see a heading like the one above. What you might not know is that tunnels are a special interest of mine. You see, at the MA Water Resources Authority, we had to design and build quite a number of them, mostly drilled through bedrock. The longest was 9.5 miles under Boston Harbor, about 400 feet down, excavated with a 28-foot diameter tunnel boring machine, to disperse treated effluent into the ocean. I think it remains the largest single uni-directional bore in the world. (Some of you might put me in that category, too!)

So, you can imagine my excitement upon encountering this behemoth, the Hvalfjörður Tunnel. As noted by Wikipedia, it is a road tunnel under the Hvalfjörður fjord in Iceland and a part of the Hringvegur (Iceland's ring road). It is 5,762m long and reaches depth of 165m below sea level. Opened on 11 July 1998, it shortens the distance from Reykjavík to the western and northern parts of the island by 45km. Passing the fjord now takes 7 minutes instead of about an hour before. You can get a sense from the accompanying map. The tunnel is at the lower left, while the previous route circumnavigates the fjord.

It is actually a bit scary to drive through, especially the first time. It is very long, with a long winding curve, not very bright lighting, and quite a gradient up and down (making it hard to maintain the 70 km/hour speed limit). I thought I would give you an impression of that, so I mounted a camera on my dashboard and produced this video.

Real infrastructure geeks will watch the whole video and complain that I did not film the entire ride. Regular people will say, "You made a video of a tunnel?!"

If you cannot see the video, click here.

10 comments:

Andrea said...

mesmerizing, claustrophobic. thanks!

Vivien said...

Amazing, Paul!

Susannah said...

I have never had a tunnel phobia, maybe it takes more imagination than I have... I keep trying to see it but, like today, when I drove through the Holland Tunnel twice in three hours taking my daughter back to school, I keep asking myself, maybe I should be worried or something? maybe it is habit but I don't get it. Heights with scary loook-down edges, yeah, I can't take that, but driving under tons of water, phaugh!
Other readers, what say you? Tunnel-phobes, speak up.

Jim said...

Thanks for the video Paul. I was curious about the construction method and found this information on the web:

Apart from being the world’s first undersea tunnel (under the North Atlantic) to be drilled through basalt in an active geothermal area, it was also the first major road-building project in Iceland to be financed by the contractor – meaning taxpayers didn’t foot the bill for the construction.

Terri said...

Yes, it’s quite an amazing tunnel. Last time I arrived in it after driving in white out conditions! But that’s Iceland!

Nancy said...

Imagine driving through it with the pressure of Boston or NY traffic.
Felt like you were circling in an airplane!

GreenLeaves said...

I think one should mention the investment that such a small country has made on an infrastructure project. I have traveled though longer tunnels (16-20 Km in Norway and Switzterland) with the Norvegian ones being similar to the Icelandic Hvalfjörður Tunnel.

You may also be interested in the Gotthard Base Tunnel in Switzerland. It is designed for railway only and will allow transit of the Alps with a minimum of elevation gain and tunneling over 35 miles. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gotthard_Base_Tunnel

James said...

I for one, love the infrastructure posts.

Rick said...

No FHWA design requirements needed here. What you see is what you get. Finished concrete, two travel lanes one in each direction. Sight distances, shoulders, design speed, special tunnel lighting these items are left for government jobs. Paul, great video work!

Jim said...

Yes, there are some web sites that say it doesn’t get a good safety rating even for Europe for all those reasons.