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Completion of Moscow’s delayed highway link 16 Dec 2014

Eugene Gerden reporting for TunnelTalk from Moscow

Building of the Halabyan-Baltic highway tunnel in Moscow, one of the most ambitious projects in the Russian tunneling industry in the last several years, will be completed by the end of the current year, according to the press service of the Moscow City Government.

Open cut construction of the Halabyan-Baltic Tunnel
Open cut construction of the Halabyan-Baltic Tunnel

The tunnel in the northern part of Moscow to connect the three city districts of Sokol, the Sheremetyevo airport and Koptevo, has been under construction since 2006, although the project was proposed originally by Stalin’s Soviet Government in the 1950s. For various reasons its implementation at that time was suspended.

The project involves building a total length of 1,935m, of which 1,565m is in a cut-and-cover construction to a maximum depth of 22.5m. The highway will have three traffic lanes in each direction.

According to initial plans of the Moscow City Government, the tunnel should have been completed in 2009, however the delivery date has been postponed several times. According to an official Government spokesperson, the much-needed tunnel will partially solve the traffic problem in Moscow, one of the most pressing concerns for the City’s Government.

Plan of the Halabyan-Baltic Tunnel
Plan of the Halabyan-Baltic Tunnel

The project is being completed by Mosinzhproekt, one of Russia's largest engineering companies that specializes in building stations for Moscow’s metro system. The contract was awarded initially to NGO Kosmos, but the contract was terminated due to company financial problems that posed a threat to successful completion. Kosmos remains currently on the verge of bankruptcy.

The tunnel is part of the North-Western Chord programme, a major new highway for Moscow that is currently under construction. The tunnel will ease traffic on the major Leningrad and Volokolamsk highways by 20-25%. The capacity of the tunnel will vary in the range of 4,800-5,100 cars/hr. It will also have a dedicated bus lane.

Construction of the Halabyan-Baltic tunnel is part of the current large-scale Leningrad highway reconstruction, to upgrade this major arterial avenue in Moscow from Tverskaya Street, the main radial street in Moscow, to the Sheremetyevo airport.

According to an official spokesperson for Mosinzhproekt, implementation of the project still associates with serious technical difficulties. The tunnel is built under the Zamoskvoretskaya metro line, one of the longest lines of the Moscow metro, services on which had to remain in operation during construction. At the same time, and in order to ensure the needed level of safety between the tunnel and the metro line, a special reinforced concrete shield, weighing several thousand tonnes, was installed in the metro running tunnels.

A section of the tunnel is located under the Rizhsky suburban railway tracks with construction carried out in two stages. The first involved separation of the tracks to allow for construction of the cut-and-cover tunnel, while the second was for their restoration after completion of the tunnel work.

Irina Rogova, Deputy Corporate Affairs Director of Mosinzhproekt has also said that dense residential development in this area creates other technical complications associated with relocation of local water and wastewater utilities.

In addition, there was a danger of flooding of the tunnel due to the fact that it passes under the Tarakanovka underground river that is now grossly overloaded. To ensure safety of the tunnel, the river was encased locally in a concrete sewer.

Sergei Sobyanin, the Mayor of Moscow, said in a press conference: "The tunnel passes under the railway, under the subway and under the Leningrad highway. Its construction remains a very difficult task and very expensive for the city. We are planning that building of the tunnel will be completed by the end of the current year.”

According to Deputy Mayor of Moscow, Marat Khusnullin, who is responsible for urban policy and construction, the total cost of the Halabyan-Baltic tunnel has exceeded RUB 70 billion rubles or about US$2.2 billion. This, he said, is the most expensive long-term uncompleted construction project in the city for the last several years.

Location of the Halabvan-Baltic Tunnel and other cut-and-cover and bored highway tunnels in the Moscow city region
Location of the Halabvan-Baltic Tunnel and other cut-and-cover and bored highway tunnels in the Moscow city region

Khusnullin added that the tunnel will relieve Leningrad highway that currently carries about 600 cars/hr.

According to Husnullin, the Halabyan-Baltic tunnel is not the only tunnel to be completed in Moscow this year. Construction of the first contra-flow tunnel at the intersection of the People's Militia and Berzarina streets in the north-west of the city will be completed by mid-December. The tunnel is part of reconstruction of the Dmitrov highway, one of the main roads in the north of Moscow, and has an estimated cost of RUB 6 billion (US$180 million).

For the future, three new tunnels are planned for the period 2015-2017 and as part of the Kashira highway reconstruction. This major street of Moscow continues as a highway beyond the city into the Moscow Oblast district and as a backup route for highway M4.

When confirming reconstruction of the Kashira highway project, the present Moscow Government confirmed that it has no plans to implement tunneling projects approved by the previous City Government. As part of this, Mayor Sobyanin suspended construction of a tunnel under the Tverskaya street to link Manege Square and the Moscow Automobile Ring Road.

Currently, the Lefortovskiy TBM bored tunnel, completed in the early 2000s, remains the longest and widest highway tunnel in Moscow at 2.15km and 14.2m in outer diameter.

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