06 May 2009

Tunneling

The Swiss love their tunnels. And who can blame them? For a fair amount of the year it is impossible to get over the mountain passes. Tunnels are definitely the way to go.

But there was one particular tunnel we have been waiting to open since we moved here in January 2006. The Uetliberg Tunnel, connecting our side of the lake with the Nord-Ring, a beltway that partially circles the city.

Up until now to get to the other side of the city, we would have to slowly creep our way through the city, frequently in gridlocked traffic, because the highway went right through the center of Zurich. Early on Sunday mornings we can be from our house to the airport parking garage in 20 minutes. In rush hour traffic, it could take more than 2 hours! Not terribly convenient.

But the Uetliberg Tunnel solves that and should make our runs to Ikea and airport pick-ups much less of  a hassle.

Originally the tunnel was to open in Fall 2007. Then they changed the laws on Tunnel Safety Requirements in Switzerland and the brand-new tunnel had to be completely renovated before it could open. So it was delayed to November 2008.

That date came and went and we discovered it was delayed again. Never did figure out why.

But we finally heard the tunnel was completed and ready to open.

However, before opened, they had a party in it. The last weekend in April was West-Fest, a 3-day carnival to celebrate the completion of the tunnel.

We thought the tunnel would open the following Monday. Only to discover they had to remove all the rides, booths and other carnival-related items. Clean-up took an additional week.

Finally, it was announced the tunnel would open on Monday, May 4th! Yeah!

But the actually opening time remained a secret. See, they didn't want people lining up to be the first to go through the tunnel. That would cause gridlock, which the tunnel was intended to prevent!

So in the wee hours of Monday morning, they quietly opened the tunnel and then sat back to wait.

The Swiss are a little upset that the first car to drive through the newly opened tunnel had German plates. (Perhaps they should have arranged it so a Swiss car would drive through first?)

But at least, after so long of a wait, the tunnel is finally open!

4 comments:

Sara said...

yay for tunnels.

They just opened a 3 km tunnel (and thus a whole new motorway) between Geneva and Annecy. There was quite a lot of activities, including a day you could go visit the tunnel digger while it was being constructed (it was very cool!).

We actually drove to Annecy one night a few weeks ago just so we could go through the tunnel before we leave. Of course being a French tunnel, it costs 8 euros each way (!!), but was still pretty exciting.

Twelfthknit said...

We saw the fireworks from West FEst. They were amazing.

Shaun said...

Funny post.... characterises lots of things about Switzerland. The fact they love their tunnels, very meticulous (imagining that the tunnel was not perfect so hence the delay), they love to party and always have to celebrate - it is as important as anything else, and.... that a German car was the first is very amusing - since it is a sore point right now with all the Germans and banking.... enjoyed this alot.

Expat Traveler said...

I am so fascinated by tunnels too. And that is really cool. But Sara's post on the new Geneva tunnel is crazy! 16 Euro's... Wow...