It's been delayed six times due to natural disasters and problems stemming from business agreements among the contractors.
Some 16 ministers have endeavored to complete the work, and finally, the dream of decreasing the travel time between Ankara and Ýstanbul to 3.5 hours has come true. The tunnel was opened Tuesday with a grand ceremony attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan and the Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi.
Erdoðan indicated that the opening of the tunnel was both a beginning and an end for the city of Bolu, saying that Bolu is a city with one of the highest traffic densities in the nation, and added that this passage will serve as a main artery for its traffic. Erdoðan pointed out this passage will relieve the traffic jams in the region.
"We are extremely excited to have brought alive one of Turkey's greatest dreams," said Faruk Özak, minister of public works and settlement. In his speech at the inauguration ceremony, Özak reminded how 45 percent of the project had been completed when they came into power in November of 2002. "We have completed the rest, the remaining 55 percent of the project, in a short period of four years," said Özak. Paolo Astaldi said there was a necessary shift of the tunnels' path due to damage that had occurred in the 1999 earthquake. He added "high-capacity energy absorbents" were used in the construction of the tunnel.
The opening ceremony was held with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, Minister of State Ali Babacan, Minister of Transportation Binali Yýldýrým and Chairman of Astaldi Paulo Astaldi. Following the ceremony, Erdoðan, Prodi and other officials experienced the first official trip through the tunnel.
The westbound section of the tunnel, which couldn't be paved due to weather, will completed by May at the latest. Erdoðan requested Özak to speed up the work schedule, and finish the work by April. The road that went through the high and steep Bolu Mountain region previously took nearly an hour. The new tunnel will bring the travel-time down to 10 minutes. Cahit Turhan, the general manager of the Highway Directorate, gave information about the Bolu Mountain Passage project saying there have been two big floods and two great earthquakes during the construction period, but no serious damage has occurred. Emphasizing that the tunnel was established on weak soil and has a huge cross section, Turhan said the project drew attention from all over the world since its' first design. Considering the hazards caused by natural conditions, the tunnel was constructed maximum security measures. The passage is expected to produce $40 million savings.
3.5 hours from Ankara to Ýstanbul
The contract for the Bolu Mountain Passage project was drawn up in 1990, and Italian construction company Astaldi won it. The Bolu Mountain Tunnel is just a part of the whole project. The excavation for the tunnel started 3 years after the project was initiated. The whole project -- 25.5 kilometers long in total -- is comprised of four viaducts that are 4.6 kilometers long, three bridges that are 900 meters long, and the 2,900-meter Bolu tunnel. The tunnel was constructed with two tubes each having 3 lanes in both directions. Of the two tubes, the one that opened to traffic yesterday is 2,788 meters long while the other is 166 meters longer. The total amount of money spent for the project, excluding the value added tax, has reached $811.4 million. 35 percent of that amount -- which is roughly $284 million -- has been spent on the tunnel. The 440- kilometer distance between Ankara and Ýstanbul, will take a shorter time to travel due to the new controlled three-lane passage.