The Istanbul Municipality is literally testing the waters to relieve the city's cumbersome traffic with new underwater tunnel projects. Although one such project would ease travel around the city of more than 17 million people, it would mean the end of the Unkapanı bridge over the city's Golden Horn inlet. The bridge, demolished and rebuilt four times, could disappear if the municipality proceeds with their plan to build an underwater tunnel to connect the two sides of Golden Horn.
The city announced recently that it would launch a public contract process later this month for a Haliç- (Golden Horn) Unkapanı highway and the tunnel that will connect the Unkapanı and Kasımpaşa districts is expected to be completed in two years.
The first bridge in the area was built in 1836 in the Ottoman era, and was replaced by a bigger bridge in 1875, which was demolished in 1912 due to corrosion. A nearby bridge was disassembled and reassembled, but was damaged by a powerful storm in 1936. The current bridge opened in 1940 and was originally named after Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, founder of the Republic of Turkey.
The tunnel will be approximately 1 kilometer long and is expected to cost $34 million. Officials say that along with easing traffic, the tunnel will move the currents in the area blocked by the existing bridge, helping to clean up the waterway.
While expanding the metro network and increasing underground tunnels for vehicles, the municipality has turned toward underwater transportation in a bid to alleviate heavy above-ground traffic. Mayor Kadir Topbaş recently announced plans to build a pedestrian tunnel between the Üsküdar and Kabataş districts connecting the Asian and European sides of Istanbul. The municipality is also looking to the private sector for help with easing traffic.
Turkish and South Korean business figures recently met in the Netherlands during an international business forum and signed a preliminary agreement to bring the South Korean "amphibus" vehicle to Turkey. The so-called amphibus can travel on land as well as on the water with a powerful engine and propellers, is currently in use in South Korea, the Netherlands and a few other countries, and is considered for use crossing the Bosporus.