The Eurasia Tunnel, the first ever road tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, was officially opened on Tuesday in a ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
Service began early on Wednesday with a 15TL fee being charged until the start of 2017.
“The toll fees which will be collected until this date will be offered to martyrs’ families,” stated Erdogan in his speech at the ceremony, also thanking officials and companies for their efforts for the project.
The project is being constructed using a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model that will ultimately cost $1.2 billion. Some 960 million of the amount was provided through international loans, while the remaining amount was financed by the project holders Yapı Merkezi and SK E&K. The project was contracted in 2009 through a joint Turkish-Korean venture later named Eurasia Tunnel Operation Construction and Investment (ATAS). After the completion of the project, the company will run the tunnel for the next 24 years and five months, when the tunnel’s operational rights will be transferred to the state.
The tunnel will be open between 7.00 a.m. and 9 p.m. until the end of January 2017, then it will remain open around the clock, officials say.
The 3.34-km tunnel crossing under the sea, which is also dubbed as the “Istanbul Straight Road Crossing Project,” will connect the two continents for a second time under the water.
The total distance of the tunnel will be 5.4 kilometers, 3.34 kilometers of which will be under the sea.
In October 2013 the Marmaray rail tunnel running under the Strait was opened, providing the first link beneath the waters that divide Europe and Asia.
But the new two-storey Avrasya (Eurasia) Tunnel, built at a depth of 106 metres, is the first tunnel for cars underneath the Bosphorus and aims to relieve road congestion in Istanbul.
Officials say the Eurasia Tunnel will provide a solution to Istanbul’s traffic problems by decreasing travel times on the route from around 100 minutes to 15 minutes between the Kazlıçeşme district on the European side and the Göztepe district on the Asian side.
The tunnel has also been designed in order to be resilient to earthquakes and tsunamis, and can even be used as bunker if necessary.