A decade on, the Coatzacoalcos River Tunnel, the first of its kind in Latin America, is nearly complete and is expected to open this year.
The four-lane tunnel is the result of Spanish investment and Dutch technology. Measuring 2,280 meters in length — 1,149 meters under water — the tunnel will connect the oil industries located on both sides of the Coatzacoalcos River, running 35 meters below the surface.
Described as an immersed tube underwater tunnel, the same technology was used to connect the European cities of Copenhagen in Denmark and Malmö in Sweden.
In Veracruz it will connect the cities of Coatzacoalcos and Allende and is being built at a cost of about US $330 million through a combination of public and private investment.
Soil conditions on both sides of the river dictated the type of tunnel that was chosen. The alternative of a cable-stayed bridge represented higher conservation and maintenance costs, while the drilled tunnel option was discarded because it was considered technically unfeasible due to the characteristics of the soil.
The chosen immersed-tunnel method allows for segments of the tunnel to be prefabricated in a dry dock. The sections are then prepared for flotation, towed to the tunnel site and placed at the bottom of the riverbed without having to use special underground drilling equipment.
More than 18,000 motor vehicles and 8,000 pedestrians cross the river between the two cities every day either by ferry or the existing two-lane Coatzacoalcos I bridge.
Traffic volumes can means traffic jams and delays of 45 minutes to cross from shore to shore. During bad weather ferry traffic comes to a complete stop, causing further congestion.
The Infrastructure and Public Works Secretary of Veracruz estimated that work on the tunnel will be finished within the first six months of 2017.
“Governor Miguel Ángel Yunes will then decide the date on which the project will be inaugurated,” said Julen Rementería del Puerto.