Foreign and Military Affairs

Chinese crew completes Haifa tunnel ahead of schedule

Updated: 2010-10-25 07:13
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JERUSALEM - A team of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) workers recently finished digging Haifa's Carmel Tunnels, which will allow motorists to quickly cut beneath town and avoid traffic snarls alongside Israel's busiest seaport, local Ha'aretz newspaper reported Sunday.

The 300-man crew, specializing in tunnel boring, completed the three-year dig with over five months to spare, despite using decades-old digging and building techniques, according to the report.

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"This was equipment they used in Europe 40 years ago," project director Haim Barak told the newspaper, citing the use of low-tech hand tools instead of massive computer-controlled tunnel drilling gear.

Officials estimate that the four-lane, six-km-long tunnels should cut rush hour drives from maximum of one hour down to about eight minutes.

East-west drilling ran 200 meters under the city's Mt. Carmel which overlooks Haifa bay, and the Chinese crew accomplished the link-up in January, Barak said the moment was "really emotional".

"People worked from two directions and didn't see each other. One day they drilled through the stone to figure out the measurements (for the blast). I would go up and look through the drill holes to see the workers on the other side," the newspaper quoted Barak as saying.

The 1.2-billion-shekel ($300 million) Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) project, which began a decade ago, was delayed by legal objections until three years ago. The tunnels will operate as a toll road, using coin booths and electronic license plate readers, according to the developers, CarmelTun.

"Our estimate is that the tunnels will decrease traffic by 15 percent on the alternative routes (which traverse the city's bustling port area), so those drivers will also have fewer traffic jams," Deputy Marketing CEO Uri Luft told Ha'aretz.