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Istanbul's tube tunnel to connect Bosporus
|As efforts to connect two sides of Bosporus by tunneling underwater gain momentum with a new highway tube tunnel project, urban planners are divided: Some think that the new tunnel, which allows private cars, will not solve Istanbul’s traffic congestion, whereas others praise any kind of transportation investment. Real estate prices are expected to boom in the area and experts have some concerns regarding safety.|
Mixed sentiment swirled in the wake of the selection of the two finalists Wednesday for the second effort to connect Istanbul by tunneling under the mighty waterway.
"The tube tunnel will make Istanbul's traffic better, although private cars should not be used as a major transportation instrument," said Sema Kubat, a professor from the architecture and urban planning faculty at Istanbul Technical University. "The tunnel may not solve the problem, but should at least ease the congestion in central areas like Mecidiyeköy and Taksim. We need any investment in transportation we can get."
The top bids for the estimated $1.5 billion project came from a Turkish-French consortium and a Turkish-South Korean consortium. The Bosporus Highway Tube Tunnel Project involves building a two-story, two-lane, 5.4-kilometer automobile tunnel, of which 3.3 kilometers would be under the Bosporus.
"We support public transportation and railway, like the Marmaray project. Private cars should not be encouraged anymore in Istanbul," said Tayfun Kahraman, secretary general of the Chamber of Urban Planners, or ŞPO, whose group has filed a complaint against the tender for the tube tunnel, and the case is ongoing. "Having the longest tunnel for the automobiles is not a good idea. If traffic congestion happens in the tunnel, people may be poisoned with the exhaust fumes. Furthermore, the roads that go to the entrances of the tunnel are already too crowded. Those places cannot tolerate a greater attraction of traffic."
The passage will start from Kazlıçeşme district at the Kennedy seaside street on the European side of the Bosporus and end at Göztepe junction of the Ankara state road on the Asian side of the Bosporus.
Boom in land prices
"The land where the tunnel's entrances are planned to be built isn't cheap, but the prices will certainly increase after the tunnel has opened," said Yaşar Ovalı, head of Istanbul Real-Estate Agents Association. "People living in those places are middle class in general, and they may be replaced by high-income owners after the tube tunnel is opened."
Due to concerns of exhaust fumes, heavy motor vehicles will not be allowed and the tunnel will feature some ventilation shafts on both sides of the Bosporus, while a tunnel management office will be built on the European side.
"This tunnel will cause air pollution in Istanbul," said ŞPO's Kahraman. "The cleaning pipes cannot always filter all the particles in the exhaust and those places where the air in the tunnel is released will be dangerous for public health. The same problem happened in countries like Japan.
"The project is too risky financially, the cost is high and we will be paying this with our taxes if the company cannot meet its costs in a certain year. In the end, not the company but the state will make a loss," said Kahraman.
Two consortiums bid on the project, one comprising the Turkish construction company Yapı Merkezi and the South Korean construction conglomeration TKJV, and the other formed by Turkish group Cengiz İnşaat-Makyol-Doğuş İnşaat and their French partner, Vinci.
The winner of the tender will be the consortium that makes the best bid in terms of feasibility, technical issues and costs, said Ahmet Arslan, general director of the State Railways, Ports and Airports Construction Company, or DLH. The Transportation Ministry had formerly set the tunnel transit prices at $4 for one-way transit and $8 for two-way transit. The Turkish-South Korean consortium offered a total contract period of 30.5 years and nine days as the other consortium offered an operation period of 13 years.
"The project is highly significant not only for Istanbul but also for Turkey," Arslan said. "This second immersed tube under the Bosporus will be a ‘first' in the world for it will be constructed at a greater depth than that of the Marmaray tunnel."