I have a love-hate relationship with oxymorons. I know exactly what they mean even though they defy the tenets of logic. “I’ll have an order of your jumbo shrimp, please.” I’ve seen almost all of the obvious oxymorons, but in a search for new examples of infrastructure around the world, I came across one that I had never seen. The headline on the ABC News website read, “Crossing Norway’s fjords is going to get easier with world’s first submerged floating tunnel.” Submerged floating tunnel made no sense. It’s either submerged—under water—or it’s floating—on top of water.
I realize this might be old news, in that Norway has been working on this concept for a few years. The submerged floating tunnel is part of a plan to make easier the long drive on Norway’s Highway E39, which is about 680 miles, crossing mountains, waterfalls, rivers, lakes, and fjords. In the historical present, the highway is interrupted by seven fjord ferry crossings. The plan includes a series of bridges and tunnels that would make Highway E39 ferry-free.
According to ABC News, “One planned tunnel will set a world record for a rock tunnel — drilled under the seabed of a fjord. It will be 1,286 feet deep and 17 miles long.”
But when it comes to Sognefjord, you’re looking at Norway’s largest fjord at more than 4,000 feet deep. It’s enough to leave civil engineers silently screaming. Those engineers seemed to have stopped acting like adult children and got to work creating a new classic. The tunnel through Sognefjord will be submerged 100 feet beneath the surface of the water, floating high above the fjord floor. This awfully good idea will help cut the end-to-end driving time on Highway E39 in half. Tourists can use the larger half of that time for more sight-seeing.
ABC News says:
“Think of a drinking straw, anchored in the bedrock on either side of the fjord, submerged about 98 feet below the surface of the water, low enough for the biggest ships to pass safely over, and with plenty of space underneath for submarines to come and go.
In addition to staying clear of water traffic, the depth of the tunnel assures smooth driving.
‘Wind, waves and currents have hardly any influence there,’ Arianna Minoretti, a chief engineer at Norway’s Public Roads Administration, told ABC News.
She said 50 international experts ‘are doing detailed simulations and detailed measurements of wind speed, current, undersea landslides, bedrock geology, etc.’ to make sure the plans, as well as the tunnel, is rooted in ‘the real-world environment.’
The two concrete tubes of the tunnel — one for traffic headed in each direction — will be firmly fixed in position and attached to floating pontoons, spaced 820 feet apart to allow sea vessels to pass through.”
Now here’s where I might get some deafening silence, but try to think of it as a cruel kindness. This entire project is going to take a long time. Currently the country has only 10% of the project completed. About one third will be finished by 2025. And the entire route is scheduled for completion in 2050. We’ll all be waiting alone together. There’s also that burning cold question of “How much is this going to cost?” Try to act naturally after I tell you the entire project, barring any bureaucratic efficiencies, carries a price tag of approximately $40 billion. I may be an advanced beginner, but that seems extremely low for such an ambitious project.
I’m cheering for Norway. At the same time I’m cheerfully mourning the lack of such ambitious infrastructure projects here at home.
By the way, in case you haven’t noticed, I have used a total of 17 oxymorons in this blog, not counting mentions of the “submerged floating tunnel.” Can you find them all?