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Green Tunnel Build Underway in Sweden

Thursday, March 15, 2018

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A 13-mile-long tunnel, slated to house six lanes of highway in one of the most extensive tunnelling projects in history, is under construction along the Western end of Stockholm, Sweden, and is being built with minimal environmental impact in mind, at significant cost.

The $4.1 billion the E4 Stockholm bypass will tunnel underneath the nearby archipelago, with 11-plus-miles of the bypass going underground. Even though the aboveground alternative, which includes bridges, would be cheaper, it would not be in line with the project’s goals to keep traffic congestion away from historical sites.

E4 Stockholm Bypass

According to Ars Technica, the E4 bypass design avoids six nature preserves or places of cultural significance, including UNESCO world heritage site Drottningholm Palace. At its deepest point, the highway will run 90 yards beneath the surface of the Mälaren strait. Three lanes will be headed in each direction, set in two separate tunnels.

To tackle a project of this scale requires what Johan Brantmark, E4 project manager for the Swedish Transport Administration, calls “a standard drill-and-blast approach.”

Tunneling began on the project in 2014, with roughly 20 million tons of rock projected to be removed by project’s completion. To date, only 20 percent of the planned route has been excavated, with the help of three Atlas Copco Drill machines.

Brantmark noted that the stronger the rock is, the quicker the workers can advance. Fractured stone requires more concrete sealant or reinforcement columns to ensure stability.

Sealing requires drilling horizontal boreholes ahead of the tunnel face and injecting concrete, and upon the substrate setting, two or three rounds of blasting occur. If overhead rock cover becomes too shallow, drilling and injecting grout to replace till and clay, with concrete columns acting as additional reinforcement, helps stabilization.

Due to the nature of the rock in the region, this method has only been implemented on a few hundred meters of tunnel.

To complete the project, 50 contracts are required, with 15-20 of these being main civil contracts.

Environmental Impact Reduction

According to Thomas Holmström, environmental manager for the project, those behind the project are aiming to deliver it at a 10 percent lower carbon footprint than what would normally be expected. In light of this, and the fact that manufacturing contributes to greenhouse emissions, the E4 project uses steel, concrete and other building materials manufactured with low-carbon methods.

Thinking green also extends to rock removal, which is done via an extensive conveyor belt system and by barges at three temporary harbors, rather than by truck. One barge can transport 80-100 truckloads of material, noted Holmström. The plan is to load up two per day per harbor.

Even though the plan to build below ground is more environmentally friendly, concern over emissions buildup remain.

To address the issue, the E4 tunnels will house around 240 fans, to be embedded in the roof, with three air exchanger stations along the tunnel in each direction. Four exhaust stations are set near tunnel mouths to also help ventilate air.

In total, the project accounts for over 33 miles of excavation. The tunnel is slated for completion in 2026, and will help alleviate the traffic congestion of the inner city. By 2035, the bypass is expected to carry 140,000 vehicles per day.

The title of world’s longest tunnel is held by the 35-mile-long Gothard Base Tunnel, which provides rail transport through the Alps in Switzerland.


Tagged categories: EU; Europe; Government; Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Roads/Highways; Transportation; Tunnel

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