Life aboveground is crowded. Engineers and architects are constantly coming up with innovative ways to meet the needs of roads, superhighways and bridges to handle unprecedented traffic. But sometimes, going underground is the best option. Tunnels, whether bored through imposing mountains or laid hundreds of feet under water, are exhilarating feats of engineering. Here, FunOnTheNet presents a collection of the world's most captivating and spectacular tunnels.
1: Laerdal Tunnel
Location: Sogn og Fjordane, Norway.
Background: About 5000 different blasts were conducted during the construction phase of Laerdal Tunnel, which spans under Norway's mountainous and fjord-filled terrain for 15 long miles, making it the longest completed road tunnel in the world.
Why It's Unique: Driving through a windowless tunnel for 20 minutes can get a bit boring, so a team of psychologists and engineers focused on retaining driver concentration. They came up with some amzing solutions which included bright blue lights and subtle curves that keep drivers engaged. Most important, though, is the fact that the tunnel is divided into several different sections, breaking up the drive and creating the effect that travellers are traveling through a handful of smaller tunnels.
2. Channel Tunnel
Location: Coquelles, France
Background: Popularly known as the Chunnel, this behemoth structure links England and France. It was completed in 1994 with a whooping price tag exceeding $20 billion. Its 31-mile-long tunnel.
Why It's Unique: Linking France and England via the English Channel is an idea that has been breeding around for hundreds of years. There were previous attempts to build a tunnel here, but they were stopped for various reasons, both technical and political. The onset of modern boring machines and the indisputable economic benefit of joining the two countries aided bringing the concept to fruition, resulting in one of the most impressive demonstrations of engineering prowess of all time.
3. Zion-Mount Carmel Tunnel
Location: Zion Canyon, Utah
Background: Drivers will encounter this panaromic structure between Utah's Mount Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. The tunnel dates as back as July 4, 1930 during the time of the formative years of the U.S. National Park Service.
Why It's Unique: A series of windows carved though the tunnel's side open up breathtaking views for drivers. You can see the rock formations and the scenery is just gorgeous. Because the tunnel is built through sandstone, a relatively soft rock, engineers have had to reinforce the structure several times during the past 80 years, adding concrete ribs and an around-the-clock monitoring system.
4: Marmaray Tunnel
Location: Istanbul, Turkey
Background: Construction of this intercontinental tunnel started in 2004, but archaeological discoveries from the Byzantine era and other complications have been major hindrance in its completion.
Why It's Unique: This immersed tube tunnel will be the first rail tunnel joining two different continents,spanning across the Bosporus Strait to link the European side of Istanbul with the Asian side.The immersed-tube architecture requires large portions of the tunnel to be built on a dry dock that is floated out into the water and sunk. Marmaray Tunnel's maximum depth of 180 feet will make it the deepest immersed tube tunnel in the world.
Location: London, England
Background: At first the Thames Tunnel doesn't seem particularly impressive; it lags behind in comparison with other tunnels with respect to its small 1300-foot length and even smaller 75-foot depth. But the Thames Tunnel is a historical milestone in tunnel engineering.
Why It's Unique: "This was the first tunnel going under a body of water, and it was the first time the shield tunneling concept was used. The tunneling shield was a device developed by Sir Marc Isambard Brunel that acts as a temporary support structure, allowing construction crews to safely, and dryly, install permanent support systems underwater. Building the Thames Tunnel was such a novelty in the early 19th century that inspectors would pay to walk inside the construction site, When the tunnel was completed in 1843, Queen Victoria knighted Brunel for his world-changing contribution to engineering.
Location: Honshu, Japan
Background: It is a 33.5-mile-long rail tunnel links the island of Honshu with the island of Hokkaido. Construction was completed in the year 1988.
Why It's Unique: At 787 feet below sea level, the Seikan Tunnel is one of the deepest tunnel in the world. Additionally, its 33.5-mile length makes it one of the longest tunnel currently in use. The region's unpredictable geology and its volcanic rock prevented engineers from using boring machines, forcing them to blast and dig their way under the Tsugaru Strait.
7.PATH Tunnel System
Location: Toronto, Canada
Background: Canadian winters can be very harsh, but this gigantic underground complex provides travellers with speedy and warm way to get around downtown Toronto. Over 100,000 daily travellers pass through this mall-like system, which is home to more than 1200 retail shops.
Why It's Unique: Several cities, including Houston, Minneapolis and Montreal, have similar systems, but Toronto's 16 mile worth of tunnels makes it grandest of all. Toronto developed a comprehensive signage system for its tunnel complex during the 1990s, and each letter in PATH is color-coded and represents a different direction. Commuters walking through the red P-section can be assured they are heading south, while an orange A would indicate that they're
8.Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line
Location: Kawasaki City, Japan
Background: This tunnel is nearly 3-mile-long which dips into this 6-mile-long tunnel in a region prone to earthquakes. The structure was made accessible to traffic in 1997, saving commuters traveling between Kawasaki City and Kisarazu City roughly by 45 minutes.
Why It's Unique: While bridge and tunnel combinations exist throughout the world, a large rest area constructed atop an artificial island at the entrance of this tunnel makes the Aqua-Line stand out among the them. The island, called Umi-Hotaru, which translates into "firefly of the sea," acts as a rest area consisting of shops and restaurants, and an observation deck that looks out on the bay.
Location: Natural Tunnel State Park, Virginia
Background: Records show that the tunnel's construction is dated way back,as long as some centuries. An article published in a geology journal in 1832 is the first documentation of the tunnel's existence.
Why It's Unique: The tunnel's 200-foot wide and is large enough to accommodate trains, so in 1906 Southern Railway established a passenger line that moverd under the natural structure. Today, the passenger rail is no longer in use, but freights continue to haul coal through the tunnel on a regular basis. The awe-inducing nature of the structure led William Jennings Bryan, 1896 presidential candidate and Woodrow Wilson's secretary of state, to declare it the eighth wonder of the world.
10.Gotthard Base Tunnel
Location: Erstfeld, Switzerland
Background: This tunnel will be the world's longest transportation tunnel, ranging over 35 miles long when completed. Drilling through the Swiss Alps is no child's play, so the timeline for completion has been pushed back several years, and the price tag has also substantially increased by billions of euros.
Why It's Unique: Efforts are put to ensure that the mountainous topography of the region does not hinder trains traveling through the Gotthard Base Tunnel at different elevation. And while the cost of the project has escalated, the tunnel could play a vital role in boosting trade between Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Austria and many other European countries.