Norway is known for its scenic icy mountains and deep fjords which makes it as a one of a kind in Northern Europe. However, this type of land features makes it difficult for motorists and car owners to travel. The 700 mile trip between the cities of Kristiansand in the South and Trondheim in the North takes almost 21 hours. But, a recent proposal could change Norway’s means of transport shortly.
Thanks to the concept of structural engineering, Norway will be the first-ever country to propose a plan about ‘floating tunnel.’ It is a 40-billion dollar infrastructure project being planned by the government to improve Norwegian’s conventional means of transportation. According to the proposal’s objectives, ferries will turn into bridges and old tunnels will be replaced with the world’s first floating tunnel.
The initial plan is that the submerged roadway will be built with a pair of concrete tubes plunged into the water’s surface for about 100 feet below. With this, it would reduce almost half of the time needed to travel from Kristiansand going to Trondheim while minimizing the environmental impact on the area. Experts also explained that with the country’s deep fjords enclosed by steep mountains, it would be impossible to build bridges or drill tunnels. However, the floating tunnel idea matched the country’s craggy land features.
According to Nils Erik Anders Ronnquist, a professor of structural engineering at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and also the team’s representative for consulting the said project to the government, a submerged floating tunnel will last for centuries as long as the structure’s weight is well suited and balanced with the buoyancy of the structure. And, this is precisely the set up which the project aims to build.
How this floating tunnel would stand under the water’s surface is explained by Arianna Minoretti, a chief engineer for the Norwegian Public Roads Administration who said that the tunnel is not floating. There will be durable cables attached to the seabed that would stabilize the tubes and several pontoons (bases) floating on the surface at precisely 800-foot intervals. Moreover, the tunnel will not impede with the activities of ships, boats and even submarines. It will also have escape routes that motorists or drivers could use to return to the surface in case of an emergency.
Minoretti, when being asked about the proposed tunnel’s safety, informed the public that preliminary research is completed and the result is reassuring. For Ronnquist, things were under control after simulations for big explosions in the tunnel have been done. They also checked for impacts of submarines, tested several scenarios where a trawler might hook onto the tunnel and considered possible solutions if a sinking ship would hit the tunnel.
However, no matter how great the structure is, the trickiest part of designing a first-of-its-kind massive infrastructure would be expecting all the possible challenges. Michael Mooney, a civil and environmental engineer at the Colorado School of Mines, said that members of the said project should think of all potential load scenarios especially wave motion. The thing is, with novel ideas and support from the government, this scheme may be the best solution to the country’s recurring problem on its rugged lands even if it’s untried elsewhere.
The proposed “floating tunnel” will be open in 2050, and while this might be the first among all countries, Italy and China are pursuing similar goals.