Iceland progresses road tunnel plans Jul 2012
Patrick Reynolds for TunnelTalk
Iceland is pushing its road tunnel agenda, with the green light given, finally, for the delayed Vadlaheidi project, and a procurement schedule brought forward for the Norfjordur scheme on the east side of the island.
Fig 1. The Vadlaheidi road tunnel in north Iceland

Fig 1. The Vadlaheidi road tunnel in north Iceland

Construction of the 7.5km long Vadlaheidi road tunnel in the north of the country, near the principal regional town of Akureyri, is set to go ahead following months of delays after bids received late last year (2011) proved too tight for the project's budget.
After recalculating the costs and reviewing the programme, the national roads authority, Vegagerdin, secured political approval for the project last month and is now preparing to award the contract to the lowest bidder, the local/Swiss JV of IAV/Marti. Talks are under way to agree the contract and for tunnelling to start in January 2013. At the same time, bids are due by the 8 August deadline to secure a consultant to supervise construction of the tunnel.
Separately, political approval by the Icelandic Parliament was granted recently for construction of the 7.9km long Norfjordur road tunnel to the east of the country near Eskifjordur. With bids due in next year, the Norfjordur scheme is to be completed by 2017.
Alignment is through the mountain on the right of the fjord

Alignment is through the mountain on the right of the fjord
Photo by: Patrick Reynolds

The difficulties of the Vadlaheidi scheme became apparent in October 2011 when of four bids received, three exceeded the project's budget between ISK9.5 billion and ISK10.85 billion (US$76.3 to $87.2 million). Only the lowest, at ISK8.85 billion (US$71 million) from IAV/Marti, came in below budget. But even this represented about 95% of the funding available. Two other qualifiers declined to submit tenders.
Vegagerdin said the high level of the bids, compared to the anticipated costs, called for a re-assessment of the project's cost-benefit. Located near the Arctic Circle, the scheme is designed to provide an all-weather route from an inland valley to Akureyri on a coastal fjord.
Re-assessment of the project, by consultants hired by the Ministry of Finance, resulted in no changes to the main features of the tunnel. The single tube, bi-directional carriageway has clearances of 9.5m wide and 4.6m high (Fig 2). Vadlaheidi will be the longest road tunnel in Iceland, after the Olafsfjord tunnel on the Hedinsfjord scheme, which opened in late 2010.
Fig 2. Single-tube bi-directional cross-section of Vadlaheidi

Fig 2. Single-tube bi-directional cross-section of Vadlaheidi

The original schedule for Vadlaheidi had construction starting by November 2011 and completed by the end of July 2015. With negotiations under way with IAV/Marti, and with the original bid price unchanged, the roads authority anticipates work starting in early 2013 and the tunnel opening in the third quarter of 2016, about a year later than originally planned.
Drill+blast for the 7.5km tunnel will advance from both portals and progress mostly through mixed-face conditions of basalt and sedimentary beds.
Local consultants supporting the roads authority in the development of the scheme have included Mannvit, EFLA and Verkis.
The Vadlaheidi toll tunnel facility is to be operated by a special purpose company owned jointly by the State and local communities. The State is to secure and guarantee debt funding for the project, and while it is planned for the State, via Vegagerdin, to hold the 51/49 majority of the shares, current discussions may see the split of ownership change, said the roads authority.
Iceland bids new Vadlaheidi road tunnel - TunnelTalk, May 2011

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