By Muhammad Ali Gurtas
A major $1.3-billion tunnel linking Istanbul’s European and Asian sides will be opened Tuesday in a ceremony to be attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
The Eurasia Tunnel was constructed underneath the seabed of the Bosphorus by ATAS, a company whose shares are equally owned by prominent Turkish contractor Yapi Merkezi and a major international company -- SK E&C from South Korea.
Construction of the two-story undersea tunnel took over four years. The total length of the project is 14.6 kilometers (nine miles) and the most crucial part, the Bosphorus crossing, is 5.4km long.
Open only to light vehicles, the tunnel will serve the Kazlicesme-Goztepe route -- where Istanbul vehicle traffic is at its most intense.
Turkey’s transport ministry said that the road toll -- excluding tax -- for automobiles and minibuses would be $4 and $6 respectively.
According to officials, the Eurasia Tunnel is expected provide a solution to Istanbul's traffic problems by decreasing travel times on the route from around 100 minutes to 15 minutes.
The tunnel has also been designed so as to be resilient to earthquakes and tsunamis, and can be used as bunker if necessary.
ATAS has the right to operate the tunnel for around 24 years in accordance with the build-operate-transfer model. At the end of this period, the Eurasia Tunnel will be transferred to the state.