A huge underground road tunnel being built underneath the sea in Istanbul may be completed sooner than expected.
Istanbulites are hoping the enormous 14.6km ‘Eurasia Tunnel Project’ linking Kazlicesme on Istanbul’s European side and Goztepe in Asia will reduce the city's notorious traffic levels.
The project, also known as the Istanbul Strait, is set to open in 2016, the country’s transport minister said earlier this week.
Speaking at the tunnel’s construction site Lutfi Elvan said: "One-third of the tunnel is completed which means that 1.2km of the 5.4km section of the tunnel under the sea is finished. I think the tunnel will be completed sooner than we had expected."
Although the project aims to reduce congestion and relieve traffic density on the huge suspension bridges which cross the Bosphorus strait, it has also sparked a debate on whether it will be successful.
Living in Goztepe and working in Zeytinburnu, 39-year-old security guard S. Gunaydin is one of the millions of Istanbul residents for whom the Eurasia tunnel is intended.
"I have a car, but to drive from Goztepe to Zeytinburnu in the rush hour takes about two hours if I use the Bosphorus Bridge or else it takes four hours via Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge.
“It is a nightmare," he tells the Anadolu Agency.
Stating that the tunnel project is cut out for him, Gunaydin says: "I will be able to use my car instead of using mass transport and pass through the tunnel in 15 minutes, but the passage fare will be $4 for each car. It can be expensive when compared to mass transport."
Istanbul is the second-worst European city after Moscow in terms of traffic congestion, according to 2012 data from Europe's biggest navigation systems company, TomTom.
In recent years, the city has persistently tried to tackle traffic problems.
"Istanbul has been struggling for more than two decades to solve this problem by redirecting traffic away from busy areas," says Mustafa Ilicali, a transportation consultant for the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality.
In December 2006, Turkey’s Transport and Communication Ministry tendered the project under the name of the ‘Istanbul Bosphorus Tube Crossing Project.’
The project was contracted in 2009 with the cooperation of a Turkish-Korean joint venture, which was later named as Eurasian Tunnel Operation Construction and Investment – ATAS – in 2011.
According to the project, ATAS will be responsible for construction, operation and maintenance for a period of 25 years.
The Eurasia tunnel will be Turkey’s second underwater project in Istanbul after the ‘Marmaray’, a railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait which has already transported around 21 million passengers in the first six months following its inauguration in October 2013.
Moreover, a third bridge over the Bosphorus is currently in construction and is expected to be ready by the end of 2015. IC ICTAS Construction Company, which is building it, claims the structure will be the widest (59 meters), longest (1,048) and highest (320) bridge in the world.
Despite being noticeable improvements, these projects have struggled to diminish traffic flow in the city.
According to Ilicali, it is impossible for any project to end Istanbul's traffic problem forever.
"The wasted time in traffic jams in Istanbul costs over $5 billion every year. Every day, around 600 new cars join city traffic and 80 percent of these vehicles are private vehicles," he says.
"The average number of persons traveling in these vehicles does not exceed one or two persons. Around 2 million vehicles take to the roads each day in this city."
Gunaydin, indicating that the tunnel will only be able to be used by light vehicles such as cars and minibuses, says:
"There are more than 3 million registered cars in Istanbul. Both the population and number of vehicle owners are increasing in the city day by day.
“The tunnel will be a good choice for the citizens like me, but it will be just a local solution."
Revealing that private vehicles account for 90 percent of daily Istanbul traffic, Ilicali says: "Only 2.7 million people travel by private vehicles in the city while this number reaches 10 million with public transportation."
"Istanbul's traffic still needs a permanent solution – which is expanding the railways across the city.
“Expanding railways will be Istanbul's only savior," Ilıcali claims.
Indeed, the city has plans to add more than 600km of metro railway to its current 150km network by 2019.
However, until then, Istanbulites may have to content themselves by honking their horns.
Central government's gross debt stock climbs 2.68 pct last month compared to August, says Treasury
Airstrikes were carried out in Bingol province, military says
Turkish, Russian leaders agree to cooperate closely on regional issues in phone call
39 former police officers were remanded in custody in Ankara
Resat Petek says international organizations should attend cases relating to coup attempt
Foreign Ministry source denies claims that embassies of several European countries have stopped giving visas to Turks
Portuguese FM Silva says Joint Economic, Trade Commission meeting to take place in Lisbon, calls for boosting trade volume
Turkey-Russia parliamentary friendship group head Recai Berber says Russia is not Turkey's rival but partner
Over 5,000 new businesses started in September, a 36 pct year-on-year rise
Turkey’s economic influence is bigger than other member countries, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif says
BIST 100 index rises 0.30 pct while US dollar/Turkish lira rate stands at 3.6620
Turkey's national education minister stresses deep friendship with African countries at 3-day education gathering in Istanbul
Naval officers convicted of violating the Constitution, tying to overthrow and hinder parliament and government
Recep Tayyip Erdogan congratulates Azerbaijan, which gained its independence 26 years ago on Wednesday
Turkish aviation has become top player globally, Turkish carrier's chief executive says
Harp R&D senior official says such product can be used to protect an individual’s privacy