An Example of Fjord-ward Thinking

Artist’s rendering of the floating tunnel courtesy Snøhetta

Norway is working on a technically ambitious solution to making time through its rugged coastal landscape, a place where roadways bump up against majestic glaciers, fjords, and mountains. A third of Norway’s 5.3 million citizens live on the west coast of the country, where 50 per cent of export goods originate.

About 1,000 fjords make travel and shipping in the area a beautiful but time-consuming endeavour. Using the existing E39 in all its glory—a 1,100-kilometre highway linking Kristiansand and Trondheim—requires seven ferry crossings and takes a vehicle 21 hours.

A $49-billion solution will cut travel time by half and eliminate the need for ferries. It will feature three suspension bridges and five floating bridges (supported by pontoons). But there’s more.        The project could make Norway the first country to build a submerged floating tunnel. The structure will be built within a fjord at a depth of 1,400 metres—too deep to drill supports into the sea bed. So instead, the tunnel portion will dangle in the water, hung from island-like pontoons.

The tunnel will sit 30 metres (100 feet) under the surface of the water, with plenty of room for ships to safely travel above it and submarines below. The tunnel’s depth will also protect it from big winds, waves, and currents.

The tunnel design will have to suit the area’s unique environment. Currently, 50 engineers, geologists, and other experts from around the world are running simulations and taking detailed measurements of the area’s geography and weather conditions. Although similar projects are underway in other countries—including China, South Korea, and Italy— Norway stands a good chance of being the first to get it done.

Still, there’s no need to plan next summer’s vacation around a drive through one of these engineering marvels: The Norwegian Public Roads Administration, the governmental body responsible for the project, aims to complete construction by 2050.


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