Creation date: September 13, 2012
The city of Maastricht, in the Netherlands, is currently constructing a 2.3 km long underground tunnel to facilitate connections between either ends of the city and reduce traffic levels. The project, part of which is being supported by the European Union through the TEN-T EA to the tune of €12.7 million (the project will also benefit from an additional €5 million in support from the 2011 Annual Call, bringing the total to €17.7 million), will remove an existing bottleneck on the A2 road in the north-south direction by augmenting capacity (lanes will be increased to 8, 4 in each direction of travel), by dividing traffic flows between regional and international and converting the road into a real motorway, thus reducing travel time. In addition, the project will boost the intermodal connection of both ports and airports in Maastricht and Liège.
The final tunnel will be a two level tunnel with two tubes each. Each tube will have two lanes of traffic. The upper level will connect to the road leading south to Liège or north to Aachen, whilst the lower level will be used for regional traffic. The tunnel will function as a real motorway, since once the direction will be selected there will not be a possibility to change. Emergency tunnels for evacuations will also be realised.
The part of the project co-financed by the EU is the realisation of the first 400 metres of tunnel, as well as all ancillary works such as setting up the building site, deviating technical infrastructure such as cables and sewers, demolishing parts of housing estates and constructing a temporary road to deviate traffic using the A2. Tunnel works include the digging of a trench and placing concrete sections of the tunnel.
State of play
Works are advanced in the two main building sites of the project. In the Koningsplain area, certain tunnel sections have already been covered by the roof and some technical obstacles (impossibility to demolish a building) have been overcome. Further south, in the Europaplein area (which will be close to the future southern access) the tunnel levels have already been excavated but the roof still needs to be installed. The two levels of the future tunnel can already be easily identified at the works stage.
The tunnels are being realised using the "cut and cover" technique, a simple method of construction for shallow tunnels in which a trench is excavated and roofed over with an overhead support system strong enough to carry the load of what is to be built above the tunnel. Since the entire tunnel will be only 18 metres deep on average, this technique was deemed more appropriate.
Due to the urban nature of the project the works to dig the tunnel have caused certain inconveniencies to the residents and businesses, but there is a general positive feeling regarding the project. This stems mostly from the future benefits which the tunnel will bring to Maastricht and its citizens. The city, in fact, has one of the highest levels of air pollution in the Netherlands, something the project will tackle, alongside noise pollution. The project will also contribute to social and economic integration of a city which is currently divided in two by the A2 road (west and east). Thus, some marginalised areas will be revamped by being better integrated into the city. Pedestrians and cyclists will also greatly benefit from road traffic being diverted underground. Finally, a special green belt of meadows and trees will be realised on the path of the A2 road once the tunnel sections are finalised. The Groene Loper, as it will be called, will be 5 km long and provide a clean and friendly environment right in the heart of the city.
If you wish to know more about this project, please consult its page!