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
(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.”

School Bus Collision on Single-Lane Bridge

Collision on the single-lane bridge over Tungufljót river.

No one was hurt in a collision on the bridge over Tungufljót river yesterday when a rental car collided with a school bus, but both cars are badly damaged. According to the school bus driver, the reason for the collision was that the driver of the other car was not familiar with single-lane bridges.

Yesterday afternoon, first responders were called to the bridge over Tungufljót river, on the road between two popular tourist attractions, Gullfoss waterfall and Geysir. Margeir Ingólfsson, the driver of the school bus, posted on Facebook that the drivers didn’t realise that the bridge could only accommodate one car at a time and instead of waiting for the school bus to pass, drove on to the icy bridge, only to collide with his bus. No one was harmed during the incident but both cars are likely destroyed. After the collision, Margeir claims the other driver asked why there was so little space to meet on the bridge.

Single-lane bridges have been in the discussion lately, following a recent fatal accident on the Núpsvötn bridge as well as increased traffic due to tourism. Speed limits on 75 single-lane bridges around the country were dropped to 50km (31m) per hour following the accident.

Collision on the bridge over Tungufljót river
[/media-credit] The single-lane bridge is on the road between Gullfoss and Geysir, a route popular with tourists.

Speed Limit Reduced on Single-Lane Bridges

The Icelandic Road Administration has decided to reduce the speed limit to 50 kph [31 mph] on all single-lane bridges throughout the country, Vísir reports. There are 75 single-lane bridges in Iceland and it’s estimated that the cost of changing the speed limit signage for each of them will cost between ISK 70 – 80 million [$581,108; €506,170]. The resulting safety benefits, however, are expected to be worth the expense.

The Road Administration’s decision comes in the wake of the fatal car accident at Núpsvötn at the end of December in which three tourists—including one child—lost their lives when their vehicle went through the railing on a single-lane bridge.

The country’s 75 single-lane bridges are highly trafficked: it’s estimated that more than 300 cars cross single-lane bridges every day in Iceland. This makes sense, given that about half of them are located along the Ring Road. In addition to changing out the speed limit signage, the Road Administration will add English signage at the crossings to ensure that foreign travelers take appropriate safety precautions. They will be reviewing speed limits on roads throughout the country and either reducing speed limits as deemed necessary or installing additional speed limit signage. There will also be an assessment of bridge conditions on main and connecting roads and improvements made according to need and budgetary limitations.

All combined, these improvements are intended to increase driver safety throughout the country, but the Road Administration urges travelers to remember the “Golden Rule” that always applies while driving: adjust your speed according to what is safe given current road conditions, not simply the posted speed limit.