The project to build the Ilgaz July 15 Independence Tunnel started in 2012. It connects Central Anatolia to the Western Black Sea and the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, thus constituting an important point in the North-South corridor. The tunnel was opened yesterday with a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. Stretching hundreds of meters underground, the tunnel has brought down the difficulty of getting around the 875-meter high Ilgaz Mountain, which was a major obstacle for drivers. Consisting of two tubes, one of which is 5,370 meters long and the other 5,391 meters long, the entrances and exits of the tunnel were drawn out in the shape of a shark's mouth.
The tunnel aims to provide fast and secure passage for drivers through the Ilgaz Mountain, where the number of traffic accidents increase in the winter.
Turkey has 393 tunnels in total
Participating in the opening ceremony through video conference in Istanbul, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that the Ilgaz July 15 Independence Tunnel is the last chain in a series of mega projects that began with the opening of the Osmangazi Bridge in June, and the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge in August and the Eurasia Tunnel last week. Drawing attention to the advantages of the tunnel, such as allowing a fast and safe transit through a very difficult mountainous region, Erdoğan declared that "Over 14 years, we have built 189 new undersea, highway and urban tunnels and we now have 393 tunnels."
The tunnel to save lives
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the tunnel, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım spoke of the various highways and tunnels the government has constructed. Yıldırım stressed that they have built 19,000 kilometers (11,806 miles) of roads, in addition to the previous 6,000 km, in 14 years and said that 76 provinces have been connected by divided routes. Moreover, he stated that over the last 14 years, Turkey has built 346 km-long tunnels. "We have transformed from a country that built just 50 km of tunnel over 80 years into one that has built 346 km of tunnel.
Drawing attention to the high rate of traffic accidents that occur on the route around the Ilgaz Mountain, he said that the tunnel will prevent accidents by providing safe passage, noting, "Traffic accidents and the pain they cause is over. Saving one person's life is to save the entire world." He further drew attention to the advantages of the tunnel, such as the prevention of getting stuck in the mountain, which he personally experienced while traveling from Kastamonu to Çankırı, or the difficulties in the connection between Central Anatolia and the Black Sea coast and the Inebolu port, the closest port to Ankara, and the transit connection to the Mediterranean.
The longest tunnel in traffic
After the tunnels opens, the route on the Ilgaz Mountain, which is 16.8 km long, will shorten to 11.4 km. Under normal circumstances when there is little traffic, this route takes 35 minutes to drive, but the tunnel will decrease the duration time to eight minutes. Ranking third among the major tunnel projects, the tunnel will claim the title of "the longest tunnel open to traffic," once it starts to be used.
The Ilgaz Tunnel is expected to provide 345,655 hours per annum making up for previous lost time as well as save 8.3 million liters of fuel annually. Moreover, the tunnel is estimated to contribute approximately TL 40 million ($12 million) to the Turkish economy.
Furthermore, the tunnel will make significant contributions to the industrial entities in the region by carrying the products of factories in Central Anatolia to the Black Sea region and facilitate the transportation of the products brought to İnebolu Port to the central regions of Turkey.
The story of the tunnel's name
The name of the tunnel, the Ilgaz 15 July Independence Tunnel, goes back to the night of the failed coup attempt of July 15. While driving from Istanbul to Ankara on the night of the coup attempt, Prime Minister Yıldırım chose another route and stayed in Ilgaz for a while. The premiere waited for a while in the construction site of the tunnel and used this site as a headquarters. Constantly receiving information from Ankara, Yıldırım ordered the downing of the planes engaged in the coup attempt and the bombing of Akıncı military base at the construction site of the tunnel. Afterward, the premiere drove to Kastamonu, a Western Black Sea city where İnebolu Port is located.