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Turkey’s longest highway tunnel opens after 137 years

A record-long highway tunnel in Turkey’s northeast has opened, 137 years after the project was first mooted in the Ottoman era.

The tunnel through Ovit Mountain, connecting the Black Sea province of Rize with the eastern province of Erzurum, opened on November 22. Once officially opened, the 14.7 kilometre tunnel will become Turkey’s longest highway tunnel - and the third longest in the world.

It’s been a long time in the works. Back in 1880, the idea for the project was first brought up as part of the Ottoman Empire’s ambitious infrastructure plans. It wasn’t until 1930, after the Turkish Republic was founded, that construction officially began. However, the project lay fallow for a number of years until 2012, when then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan revived the tunnel, along with a number of other large infrastructure projects.

The mountain tunnel bypasses a winding highway where weather conditions often cause problems for drivers.

A breakdown of project costs so far.

Erdogan’s infrastructure projects are well documented. A number have been controversial due to their cost, scale or impact on surrounding areas. Here are a few of his most talked about.

The Marmaray Tunnel, joining Europe and Asia,

Marmaray Tunnel

Opened October 2013

The Marmaray Tunnel was the first undersea passage to join Europe and Asia, allowing trains and other vehicles to pass beneath Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait, helping to alleviate the city’s infamous traffic problems for the millions of people living in Istanbul. Since it opened, it’s transported almost 200 million passengers.

The Osman Gazi bridge is the fourth longest suspension bridge on the planet
Osman Gazi Bridge

Opened June 2016

Stretching 2.6km across the Izmit Gulf in Turkey’s northwest, the Osman Gazi bridge is the fourth longest suspension bridge on the planet. It takes its name from the founder of the Ottoman Empire.

Read more: New Izmit Gulf bridge to double property prices in Bursa and Mudanya 

The Sultan Selim bridge, the third bridge to link Istanbul’s Asian and European sides
Sultan Selim Bridge

Opened August 2016

The widest suspension bridge in the world, the Sultan Selim bridge measures almost 60 metres across. It’s the third bridge to link Istanbul’s Asian and European sides and has been a long time coming: the first two opened in 1973 and 1988. It’s named after Sultan Selim the Grim, the 16th century sultan who rampaged across the Middle East. Its opening created new inroads into the city and helped push prices up in Istanbul’s satellite towns.

Read more: Bridge boom: Istanbul property price increase fourfold. 

The Eurasia Tunnel is the first ever road tunnel beneath the Bosphorus Strait
Eurasia Tunnel

Opened December 2016

The first ever road tunnel beneath the Bosphorus Strait is 14.6km long and connects Kumkapi on the European side and Kosuyolu on the Asian side. The tunnel is 106 metres deep and like other trans-Bosphorus projects aims to alleviate the city’s serious traffic problem as well as connect it to the new highways going around and out of the city.

Istanbul New Airport will become the world’s largest airport
Istanbul New Airport

Opening 2018

The first stage of Istanbul New Airport is set to open in the first half of 2018. The landmark construction will become the world’s largest airport, and will turn Istanbul into a major regional and global hub. Constructed outside the city centre, by the Black Sea, the development will create thousands of jobs and help drive the city’s industries, including pushing up the prices of apartments in Istanbul.

Canal Istanbul will be connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea
Canal Istanbul

Opening as yet unknown

Canal Istanbul will be Erdogan’s most ambitious project. The canal project will dredge a new canal connecting the Sea of Marmara to the Black Sea. The canal will alleviate some of the shipping traffic on the Bosphorus, which is one of the busiest city shipping routes. It will also create a new island, which is set to become a commercial and residential suburb.

Canakkale 1915 is set to be the world’s longest suspension bridge
Canakkale 1915 Bridge

Opens 2023

Set to be the world’s longest suspension bridge, Canakkale will span the Dardanelles Straits off the Gallipoli peninsula. This is an area of great significance for Turks, as it’s where Ottoman troops resisted invading Allies in World War I. The 1915 in the bridge’s name refers to the year of the campaign.


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