A Record-Setting Highway Tunnel Makes Its Debut in Portugal

May 7, 2016

The Marão Tunnel in northern Portugal made its debut. This new highway structure was officially dedicated by António Costa, the prime minister of Portugal. As a key part of the inaugural festivities on that Saturday, hundreds of people in attendance traveled through the tunnel either on bicycle or by foot. The Marão Tunnel was opened to motor vehicle traffic just after midnight on the following day.

This tunnel was built through the 4,642-foot (1,415-meter)-tall Serra do Marão, the sixth highest mountain on mainland Portugal. The Marão Tunnel carries the main highway IP4, which is signposted as A4 in that vicinity, through the mountain. (That highway has also been designated as a portion of European route E 82 of the International E-road network running through much of Europe.) The Marão Tunnel now serves as a pivotal link between the cities of Vila Real in the Vila Real District and Amarante in the Porto District.

The twin-tube Marão Tunnel measures approximately 3.5 miles (5.7 kilometers) in length, making it the longest tunnel in Portugal and the third longest in the entire Iberian Peninsula. (The Iberian Peninsula in the southwestern corner of Europe consists mostly of Portugal and Span, and also includes the Principality of Andorra, the British territory of Gibraltar, and a small section of France.)

Construction on the Marão Tunnel had begun in 2009 and it proved to be a lot easier said than done due to funding challenges and various other major hurdles during the project. At the time of the tunnel’s opening, however, several public officials highlighted instead the potential benefits of the structure.

Pedro Marques, Portugal’s minister of planning and infrastructure, said that the tunnel would “have an enormous impact on the lives of people and companies” and become a “factor in boosting the economy.” In addition, Marques asserted that the tunnel would ensure “a fast, comfortable and, above all, safe connection to the rest of the country and the European road network.”

For his part, Mayor Rui Santos of Vila Real talked about how the tunnel removed what had been a formidable impediment to his own city’s ready access to other communities in the region. “This infrastructure ends the mythical barrier of [Serra do] Marão, a barrier that was physical but was also very psychological,” he said.

Photo Credit: Joseolgon (licensed under Creative Commons)

For more information on tunnels in Portugal, please check out  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_tunnels_in_Portugal

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