Transport Plan: Single-Lane Bridges to Be Eliminated

Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson

At a press conference yesterday, the Minister of Infrastructure unveiled his new transport plan. The plan aims to eliminate single-lane bridges on the Ring Road within 15 years and includes plans to build a new Hvalfjörður tunnel, alongside nine other tunnels. More than ISK 900 billion ($6.5 billion / €6.1 billion) will be invested over the next fifteen years, RÚV reports.

New tunnels and the elimination of single-lane bridges

At a press conference held yesterday at the Nordica Hotel in Reykjavík, Minister of Infrastructure Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson unveiled the ministry’s transport plan for the years 2024 to 2038.

The plan includes a budget of over ISK 900 billion ($6.5 billion / €6.1 billion) for transport projects in the next fifteen years, with approximately ISK 260 billion ($1.9 billion / €1.7 billion) allocated for the next five years. Notable projects include the construction of a second Hvalfjörður tunnel (a road tunnel under the Hvalfjörður fjord in Iceland and a part of the Ring Road) and a tunnel under the Öxnadalsheiði mountain pass. Additionally, the plan aims to eliminate single-lane bridges on the Ring Road within fifteen years.

The transport plan also includes significant road projects such as doubling the Reykjanesbraut road – connecting Reykjavík to Keflavík International Airport – and widening the Suðurlandsvegur and Kjalarnesvegur roads with separated driving lanes. Around 80 kilometres of main roads will also be widened.

There are ten tunnels in the plan:

Fjarðarheiðar tunnel
Siglufjörður tunnel
A second Hvalfjörður tunnel
Tunnel between Ólafsfjörður and Dalvík
Tunnel between Ísafjörður and Súðavík
Broadening of the Breiðdals segment of the Vestfjords tunnel
Seyðisfjörður and Mjóifjörður tunnel
Miklidalur and Hálfdán
Klettháls
Öxnadalsheiði
(Four other tunnels are also under consideration: Reynisfjall, Lónsheiði, Hellisheiði eystri, Berufjarðar and Breiðdalsheiði tunnels.)

An alternate airport fee will also be introduced and a new terminal will be built at Reykjavík Airport. The transport agreement in the capital area will also be updated with funding for the preparation of Sundabraut continuing to be guaranteed.

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2026 and be completed in 2031.

Increasing road safety

Sigurður Ingi was quoted in a press release on the government’s website stating that, above all, the focus of the transport plan was increased road safety:

“When I took over as Minister of Transport almost six years ago, the development of transport infrastructure was launched with subsidies towards roads, ports, and airports throughout the country. For the next several years, we were able to invest more in transport infrastructure annually than had previously been done.

Above all, our guiding light, and biggest project, is increasing safety on the roads. As in previous transport plans, the emphasis is on reducing the number of single-lane bridges and crossroads, shortening distances between places and, most importantly, separating opposing lanes on the busiest roads to and from the capital area. We have worked according to a clear safety plan for traffic, shipping, and aviation in cooperation with regulatory bodies and the business world.

Transport is the lifeblood of society and supports a strong economy throughout the country and provides a lot of strength to the settlements. The projects are diverse and range from protective pavement (i.e. bundið slitlag) on connecting roads to ambitious collaborative projects such as Ölfusárbrú and Sundabraut.”

Hvalfjörður Tunnel Closes Overnight June 5-7

Hvalfjörður tunnel on the Route One north of Reykjavík will close overnight between June 5 and 7. The tunnel will close from midnight to 7.00am for cleaning and other routine maintenance work.

Hvalfjörður tunnel lies on the Ring Road between Reykjavík and Borgarnes. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration informs travellers to use Route 47 around Hvalfjörður fjord as a detour during the closure.

Car Accidents, Bad Weather Cause Road and Tunnel Closure

The road through Hellisheiði has been closed indefinitely due to bad weather and a road accident, RÚV reports. Steep winds are now blowing through the northwest of Iceland, causing The Icelandic Meteorological Office to issue a special warning against strong gusts along the coastline, especially around Snæfellsnes, the south part of the Westfjords, Brattabrekka, Holtavörðuheiði and roads leading north.

A low pressure area situated over Faxaflói is moving slowly to the north today, causing gales and severe gusts of wind, expected to reach 67 miles per hour near mountains.

The winds are presumed to be strong from about 11 AM, persisting well into the day. Furthermore, roads all over the country are now covered in ice and in many places snowfall is expected, travellers are asked to take heed.

In addition, Hvalfjörður tunnel is closed at the moment, as two people were rushed to a hospital this morning after a car crash in the tunnel. According to a RÚV report, one person’s injuries were minor, whilst the state of the other remains unclear. The accident caused oil to leak into the tunnel, forcing officials to close it down while the spill is cleaned up. The tunnel is expected to reopen as soon as possible.

Hvalfjörður Tunnel Toll to End in September

It is expected that the toll collection in the Hvalfjörður tunnel will cease by the end of September, Skessuhorn reports. The tunnel, which opened on the 11th of July, 1998 at a cost of 70 million $, has greatly shortened distances for drivers since opening. The private company Spölur is now finishing its last tasks, such as cleaning the tunnel along with regular maintenance. Barring any last-minute changes, the company will hand over the reins of the tunnel to the Icelandic Road Administration by the end of September, 2018.

Original plans projected that it would take around 20 years to recover the costs of building the tunnel through toll fares. The private company Spölur has handled the collection of the toll fares hitherto, as well as taking charge of all repairs and security in the tunnel. Traffic volume has been significantly higher than originally projected, so it has been clear for some years that the tunnel has been paid for. There were even plans afoot at one point to construct another tunnel through the fjord, which would allow traffic in opposing directions to be separated.

The Icelandic Road Administration will now take over the reigns of the tunnel. The previously manned toll booths are expected to be unmanned now, and security will be controlled from The Icelandic Road Administration offices. “The only difference will be that security monitoring will not take place in the booths next to the tunnel, but rather in the monitoring stations of the Icelandic Road Administration in Borgartún, Reykjavík or in Ísafjörður”, G Pétur Matthíasson, the public relations officer of the Icelandic Road Administration commented.

The tunnel cuts through Hvalfjörður fjord, just north of Reykjavík. Previously, drivers had to undertake the arduous trip into the long and winding Hvalfjörður, which was often deemed unpassable due to weather conditions. The time it took to pass through the fjord was shortened from an hour to 7 minutes. The Hvalfjörður tunnel is part of Route 1, and is 5 770 metre-long in total, reaching a depth of 165 metres below sea level.

Those drivers heading to West Iceland, the Westfjords, or the North of Iceland can expect their purse to hurt a little less during their trip to Iceland. Spölur will soon start work to clear up all toll fare subscription accounts.

The toll rates had previously been 1000 króna (9.22 $, 7.98 €) for passenger vehicles. Further information can be found on Spölur’s website – www.spolur.is, as well as the website of the Icelandic Road Administration – www.road.is