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Tunnel Linking Europe, Asia Opens

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

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More than four years after construction began, the Eurasia Tunnel, connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul underneath the Bosphorus Strait, has opened to vehicle traffic.

The 14.5-kilometer (9.5-mile) tunnel was designed to reduce the time of a car trip from Kazlicesme, on the European side of the strait, to Goztepe, on the Asian side, from about 100 minutes to just 15. A 5.4-kilometer stretch of the tunnel passes directly under the Bosphorus at a maximum depth of 61 meters below the seabed.

The tunnel was constructed by Eurasia Tunnel Operation Construction and Investment Inc. (ATAS), a joint venture between Turkish firm Yapi Merkezi and South Korean company SK E&C. Through the build-operate-transfer model used for the contract, ATAS will operate the tunnel for about 25 years before turning operation over to the Turkish government.

All told, the tunnel reportedly cost $1.3 billion to build.

Two Decades in the Making

The tunnel has been in the works since 1997, when the Turkish government first began weighing options to reduce drive time between the eastern and western sections of Istanbul, the world’s only major metropolis that lies on two different continents.

Eurasia tunnel cross-section
Rendering: Arup

With a 12-meter inside radius, the two-deck tunnel is designed only for light vehicles.

Design work was done by a number of large firms: U.S.-based Parsons Brinckerhoff, HNTB and Jacobs Engineering, and U.K.-based Arup.

Seismic Resistance, Safety Coatings

The tunnel's designers say the structure can withstand an earthquake up to magnitude 7.5, and add that its seismic resistance mean it could potentially be used as an underground bunker in the event of a tsunami.

According to Turkish news source Daily Sabah, construction of the tunnel used 70,000 tons of iron and 700,000 cubic meters of concrete, and the excavation displaced 2 million cubic meters of earth.

For fire safety purposes, the builders applied fire-resistive surface coatings over high-strength concrete. The testing process used to determine the ideal thickness of concrete and the passive fire protection coating layer resulted in an article published in 2015 in Construction and Building Materials.

With a 12-meter inside radius, the two-deck tunnel is designed only for light vehicles—cars and mini-buses are allowed, but buses, large trucks and any other vehicle weighing more than 5,000 kilograms (about 5½ tons) are prohibited, as are hazardous materials.

Third Tunnel Planned

The Eurasia Tunnel is the second tunnel recently built beneath the Bosphorus; in 2013, the Marmaray Rail Tunnel opened about a kilometer north. And in 2015, Turkish officials unveiled a plan to build a third tunnel, with three decks to convey both auto and rail traffic, calling it a “mega project.” The three-deck tunnel will be the first of its kind ever built.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; concrete; Construction; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Tunnel

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