Europe's First Double-Deck Tunnel Reaches End of Excavation Phase

Excavations have now been completed for what will become the first double-deck motorway tunnel in Europe. The tunnel will carry the A2 Motorway through the town of Maastricht, Holland.
The excavation process has taken two years, with over 1.4 million cubic metres of earth and stone being shifted altogether. When the excavation activities were at their peak, more than 450 vehicles were in use by contractors Strukton and Ballast Nedam. The resulting pit is more than 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) in length and has a depth of 22 metres.
The Maastricht section of the A2 motorway has long been a source of concern for the heavy traffic it generates within the borders of the busy town. The course of the motorway has also raised concerns over the way it effectively divides Maastricht’s town centre in two. As such, this project has been welcomed by many as a way to reconnect the town and eliminate the traffic problems without harming accessibility or road transport links across Holland.
It will be the first two-level tunnel of its kind in Europe, employing two pairs of stacked tubes through which cars and heavy goods vehicles can travel. The intention is for the upper tubes to be open for local traffic while through traffic travels in the lower tubes. By separating out the traffic across two levels in this way, the congestion that has so far marred this stretch of motorway should be significantly reduced. Road safety, it is hoped, will also be improved by moving the busy stretch of motorway below ground and easing congestion.
Once the tunnel enters operation, the above-ground site that previously housed the stretch of motorway is to be turned into what contractors Strukton refer to on their website as a “green carpet.” Indeed, the project is being referred to as the “Groene Loper” (Green Carpet) project in reference to this above-ground component. The area will continue to accommodate some local traffic on a much smaller single carriageway – though it is expected that 80% of traffic will move below ground –and provide access to local amenities such as commercial and residential infrastructure. There will also be cycle and pedestrian lanes, lined with lawns and approximately 2,000 lime trees in order to create a pleasant green space for local residents. A number of buildings that run alongside the former motorway route will also be renovated and improved, and it is planned that some new buildings will be constructed in the area as well.
It is hoped that the tunnel will be ready to begin its operational life by 2016. Concrete was being poured into the pit while excavations were still underway in order to speed completion of the concrete shell. It is hoped that the concrete body of the tunnel will be completed by the early months of 2015.
Author: Matthew Scott