Iceland bids new Vadlaheidi road tunnel May 2011
Patrick Reynolds Freelance Reporter
- Iceland has concluded pre-qualification of contractors for construction of its new 7.8km long, single tube Vadlaheidi toll road tunnel.
Route of Iceland's longest road tunnel
- Tender documents are to be released by early June for award of the contract by early September. A budget of approximately US$95 million has been set for Iceland's latest road tunnel, which is to be completed by early 2015.
- Vadlaheidi is to be a 9.5m wide tube that will cut through a mountain to the east of Akureyri, the main town in the north of Iceland. Vegagerdin builds its tunnels with a standard 4.6m high clearance. Earlier plans for the tunnel have had it shorter and longer, ranging from about 7.4km-8km in length.
- Special purpose company Vadlaheidargong ehf has been set up to develop and operate the tunnel.
- Debt funding for the scheme is to be guaranteed by the Government, which will hold a 51% stake via the national roads authority. Local communities and businesses will own the share the ownership balance. Loan payback is via toll revenue.
- A number of road tunnels to help improve transport links around the rugged Iceland coast have been built and more have been in planning for some time, including Vadlaheidi. Last year the most recently-built tunnels opened – the 5.4km long Oshlid tunnel and the Hedinsfjordur scheme, comprising the 7.1km long Olafsfjordur and 3.9km long Siglufjordur tunnels. The tunnels were also excavated by drill+blast.
Toll road will improve link in the north of the country
- Economic difficulties however, have had the country facing delay of the scheme. The Vadlaheidi scheme which would be Iceland's longest single tube road tunnel. Last year there was discussion with pension funds to possibly contribute to the project finance structure. In the end they have not been involved but Vegagerdin is still developing to schedule. With pre-qualification underway there is near-certainty that the scheme will proceed to construction with work on site to commence before the onset of the harsh near-Arctic winter.
- While funding discussions are underway, the site investigation work along the tunnel route continued through last year. The tunnel's geology under a cover of up to 450m is basalt with sedimentary beds. Some local groundwater problems could be experienced, as has happened at other road tunnels.
- There is marked variability in the geology found by tunnellers around the island and either groundwater or rock stability can prove to be considerable challenges.
- The tunnel has been designed by Vegagerdin and local consultants.
- Iceland has an toll road tunnel at Hvalfjordur, which is in the south west of the island, near the capital Reykjavik. The undersea tunnel has proved popular and a second tube has been under consideration.
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