China plans incredibly big undersea tunnel

Chinese officials are planning the world's longest, expensive and most ambitious undersea tunnel ever.
Written by David Worthington, Contributor
China may use a massive tunnel boring machine (like this) to build the world's longest undersea passage

If you want evidence that China is rapidly ascending to the top of the world economy look no further than it infrastructure projects: Chinese officials are planning the world's longest, expensive and most ambitious undersea tunnel ever.

The cities are only about 100 miles apart, but the sea makes ground transportation difficult

Quartz's Gwynn Guilford today published an article about China's massive Bohai Sea tunnel project. The planned 76 mile long tunnel would shorten the commute between the cities of Dalian and Yantai from 7-8 hours down to an hour, it says. Dalian is China's northernmost warm water port and Yantai is a dense urban area that's home to a large commercial fishing operation and growing industrial zones.

The tunnel is projected to cost at least US$43.4 billion, but the Chinese Academy of Engineering told Reuters that it has projected that the investment will be recouped within 12 years though annual revenues from the tunnel of around $4 billion due to increased freight traffic between the cities. It was initially estimated that the tunnel would cost $10 billion when plans were first drawn during the early 1990s.

Here's a frame of reference on the scale of China's project:

  • New York City's East Side Access project that connects Long Island to Manhattan's East Side cost over $8.4 billion to build.
  • The Bohai tunnel is three times more expensive than Boston's "Big Dig."
  • The Bohai tunnel will be twice as long as the current world record holder, Japan's Seikan Tunnel, and the Channel Tunnel between the UK and France.
  • Chinese officials will have to build an 8.0 magnitude earthquake resistant tunnel, Quartz says.
  • London's Crossrail project will cost around $22 billion to build.

If budget weren't a factor there'd already be a project to build a 2,500 mph vacuum tunnel that would shorten the journey between New York and London to an hour.

There's still the question of whether the Bohai project will happen. China announced a major stimulus program for its cities last year to fuel economic growth, creating many "ghost buildings." Its leadership has since outlined a shift toward free market reforms and more gradual GDP growth to ward off future debt problems.

The Bohai tunnel would be an engineering marvel - if it gets built.

(image credit: Wikipedia, David Worthington)

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