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Discussion Starter #22
Héðinsfjarðargöng (Héðinsfjörður Tunnels)
What: A road link connecting two towns in northern Iceland involving two tunnels.
Why: To shorten the distance between the towns of Ólafsfjörður and Siglufjörður from 62 km (summer) or 234 km (winter) down to 15 km (all seasons).
When: Construction started in May 2006 and the tunnels are projected to be opened in September 2010.
Cost: Originally estimated at 7 billion ISK but will probably exceed 9 or even 10 billion.

Héðinsfjarðargöng is quite simply the largest single infrastructure project ever to be built in Iceland (Keflavík International Airport may have been more expensive but the cost was payed by Uncle Sam during the Cold War). It involves a 3.7 km long tunnel from Siglufjörður to Héðinsfjörður and a 6.9 km long tunnel from Héðinsfjörður to Ólafsfjörður. It also involves the laying of 3.2 km of new roads connecting the towns to the tunnels and the tunnels to each other. Héðinsfjörður (from which the tunnels get their name) is an uninhabited fjord between Siglufjörður and Ólafsfjörður where no roads existed before. Both of the tunnels have two traffic lanes.




This also the most controversial piece of infrastructure that I remember because it is perceived as a prime example of pork barrel spending by rural politicians benefitting only a few people at a great cost. The town of Siglufjörður has about 1300 people and Ólafsfjörður about 800 people. Combined these towns make up 0,7% of the population of Iceland and those are the only ones that stand to benefit from the project. These tunnels will not serve any greater good beyond those towns because they are to far out of the way for most people. I myself am born and raised in Akureyri, not far from these towns, and I currently live in Ísafjörður which is another remote small town. I like to think that I have a good understanding of the need that people in those communities have for improved roads, it is a matter of survival for them. But I still can not justify for myself the insane amounts that are being spent on Héðinsfjarðargöng, the priorities are all wrong. If it had been decided in 2006 to spend nine billion ISK on the road between Reykjavík and Selfoss instead, we would now have a near-motorway standard road there with completely separated traffic in opposite directions. It would have saved a lot of money in the long run through fewer and less serious accidents as well as preventing injuries and deaths. Instead we get tunnels that allow mere 2000 people to visit each other more frequently. I almost makes my blood boil when I think about this...



Even if we push the issue of cost and priorities aside, this project does not make sense. Two small towns will be connected with each other by a great modern road designed by the latest safety standards and such (and expected to be used by 2-300 vehicles per day) while both of the towns will still have substandard and hazardous connections with the outside world. The connections from Siglufjörður to the west and from Ólafsfjörður to the east both rely on very narrow single lane tunnels and roads clinging to steep mountainsides where there is a risk of avalanches in winter and rockfall the whole year around. Surely it would have made more sense to focus on traffic safety on these existing roads rather than spending all this money on this link between two backwaters.

Why is this happening? It is simply because of a political system that disproportionally favors the rural parts of the country over the more urban southwest. Siglufjörður is also a place that punches far above its own weight even within its own rural region because it apparently breeds politicians.
The tunnels are opening today. The final price tag is 12 billion ISK, a bit more than the original budget of 7 billion. Most of the difference is because of the inflation during the construction period but engineering problems with ground water in one of the tunnels also pushed up the price.
 

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Discussion Starter #23
It has been unusable for the last two weeks because of silt buildup but the ferry started sailing there again today after a big dredging operation. It was always known that the channel into the harbour would need to be dredged regularly but the amount of sediments that has been building up has been much greater than expected. There are two things to consider before the whole thing is written off as a huge fiasco:

A) The vast majority of these sediments can be traced directly to the eruption in Eyjafjallajökull this spring. The river Markarfljót that flows into the sea like 10 kilometers to the east from the harbour carried a lot of silt to the sea during the floods that eruption caused. This excessive silt will be washed away to the sea over the coming months and years with the currents but maintaining the harbour will be more expensive during this period.

B) The ferry that is currently being used is not optimal for operating out of this harbour which was designed for a ship with a significantly smaller draft. Ordering this new ferry was delayed indefinately to cut costs.

This will be a very difficult winter in operating Landeyjahöfn.
After I wrote this, the harbour opened again for a few days but was then closed again and has been closed for a some weeks while sand is removed from it. Dredging can only be done in calm weather and there are not many opportunities to get it done during this time of year. Landeyjahöfn might not open at all this winter and it is starting to look more and more like the biggest fail in the history of infrastructure in this country.
 

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Landeyjahöfn might not open at all this winter and it is starting to look more and more like the biggest fail in the history of infrastructure in this country.
Bjarki, too early to get gloomy? The two points in your earlier post may well still pertain.

An on pork matters I see that the new tunnels to Siglufjordur are averaging 500 (!) vehicles a day - above expectation.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
Bjarki, too early to get gloomy? The two points in your earlier post may well still pertain.

An on pork matters I see that the new tunnels to Siglufjordur are averaging 500 (!) vehicles a day - above expectation.
Yeah, I believe the harbour will work out eventually, although it will probably always be more expensive to maintain than was originally planned.

The traffic figures for the first month of the tunnels are probably not representative of what is to come. There has been a lot of curiosity traffic, people coming from neighbouring towns to check out the tunnels themselves and the, now better accesible, town of Siglufjörður.

The next tunnel in Iceland might be one through Vaðlaheiði, a mountain right east of Akureyri. If built, it would be funded with loans that would be paid back by tolls. Decisions should be made about that soon.
 

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Discussion Starter #27
Hello, please tell me, have been constructed these high voltage power lines and pylons in Iceland?



source
No. The company that runs the national electricity grid had a competiton about different approaches to the design of high voltage pylons but none of these unusual pylons have been built.
 

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Discussion Starter #29


The controversial transit hub project in Reykjavík is dead. It was meant to be a joint hub for domestic flights, long-distance buses and city buses and to be located adjacent to Reykjavík Airport (which itself is crammed into the center of the city). After a meeting between the mayor of Reykjavík and the transport minister today, it was announced that the city was no longer interested in participating in the project and thus it can't proceed.

The reason for the controversy is that the airport itself has been the source of disputes for many years. Those who want to see it removed were generally against the transit hub since they saw it mainly as an air terminal that was meant to secure the airport in its place for the future. Now I think it is becoming clear that the airport will be closed, probably in about ten years from now.
 

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I am coming to visit Iceland in 2 weeks for the first time! Im looking forward to seeing some of these projects!
 

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Discussion Starter #31
There are currently no toll roads in Iceland except for the tunnel under Hvalfjörður. It is tolled because it was built as a private initiative in 1998 but it is supposed to handed over to the state in 2018 at the latest.

Since the recession started in 2008, money has been tight with the Icelandic government and a strict IMF austerity program has been in force which prevents much spending on new roads. This is the reason why road tolls are now being proposed by the ministry of transportation. The idea is to put up toll stations on each of the three main roads out of Reykjavík, effectively locking up the capital behind a paywall. The tolls collected would be used on upgrades of these same roads.

Needless to say, these proposals are extremely unpopular, especially with people who live in Reykjavík's satellite towns, many of whom commute to the city every day. Personally, I am not sure if the politicians manage to push this through.

The upgrades that are supposed to be funded through these tolls can be seen on the following map. The red segments mean that the road would be upgraded to 4 lanes and the green segments mean an upgrade to a 2+1 road with a wire barrier in the middle.
 

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Discussion Starter #32
The state of Iceland's roads in the end of 2010. The black lines are roads that were paved by the end of 2009, the red lines mean added pavement during 2010 and the yellow/brownish lines are unpaved roads or tracks.

 

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Discussion Starter #34 (Edited)
^^Yeah, that road is also know as the "perpetual election promise" or something like that since the local politicians have been trying to get it done for some decades now. They started working on that road before the recession hit and it would probably have been done by now if they hadn't been forced to slow down the project due to lack of funds. It think it should be done and paved the whole way in 2012 if current plans go through.
 

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Discussion Starter #37
It looks like the next big road project will be the Vaðlaheiði tunnel, a 7.2 kilometer long tunnel just east of Akureyri under the mountain Vaðlaheiði. The project would also involve building or upgrading 4 kilometers of roads. It would shorten the ring road by some 13 kilometers and provide and alternative route to the troublesome mountain pass at Víkurskarð.

The public roads administration has already asked for preliminary bids from contractors but the estimated cost of the tunnel would be more than 12 billion ISK. This tunnel will actually be built and funded by an private corporation owned by the state. The government will back the loans needed but if the traffic projections prove to be correct, the cost of the tunnel should be repaid in 25 years with tolls and without any contributions from the tax payers. Many people are doubtful and believe that the traffic estimates are too optimistic.

The tunnel will be built according to most recent Norwegian standards, be 9.5 meters in diameter with the road itself being 7 meters wide. The tunnel will be slightly curved as is now recommended by the Norwegian standards for tunnels longer than 6 km because it gives drivers a better sense of distances.

Tunnels aren't really picturesque structures so there are not many interesting pictures to show but here is the layout of the tunnel at least:

And here is a map of the location:
 

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Discussion Starter #38
Iceland's newest bridge was designed, built and opened in one week.

A flash flood, possibly caused by a minor eruption in Katla, from Mýrdalsjökull glacier destroyed the bridge over Múlakvísl river in the morning of 9 July, that bridge was opened in 1990 and was 128 meters long concrete structure.

This was a hugely important bridge. A part of the ring road, the only road link along the south coast of Iceland. The economic impact, especially on tourism, of losing that link is very severe so it was a priority to get it back up as soon as possible.

A temporary bridge, spanning 150 meters, was built and opened at noon on 16 July. It consists of a wood floor on steel beams carried by wood pylons. It only has a single traffic lane but that will have to do for now. What the future holds is unclear, a permanent bridge needs to be built eventually but perhaps it would be wise to wait until the next big Katla eruption is over.




Pictures from the Icelandic Road Administration.
 

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Discussion Starter #39
A new transatlantic telecom cable will be laid between Canada, Ireland and Iceland next year and will be ready in 2013. It adds a new data connection to Iceland which has three cables already connecting it with Europe and North America. This adds capacity that might be used by massive data centers that would be located in Iceland.

The new cable is called Emerald Express Cable and is seen here along with the existing cables to Iceland and the Faroe Islands:
 
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