I’ve been enjoying the World’s Longest Tunnel page recently and I decided to see if I could locate some of the more striking examples using Streetview or other online maps. Oftentimes I could locate those spots but the interior of a tunnel isn’t particularly impressive. Instead, let’s take a look at the tunnel entrances. Those can deliver us to some rather amazing places.
World’s Longest Auto Tunnel
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The site claims that the world’s longest automobile tunnel can be found in Norway, between Aurland and Laerdal, and it’s called the Laerdalstunnelen. It stretches 24.5 kilometres (15.2 miles) on the main route between Oslo and Bergen. Other sites corroborate the claim so I guess it’s a fair assessment. Fact checking isn’t my strongest suit. Don’t take what I say necessarily at face value.
I can’t possibly imagine what it must be like to drive that distance underground and apparently the engineers who designed it couldn’t either, so they constructed three large "caves" along the route to break the monotony.
World’s Longest Subaqueous Automobile Tunnel
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Perhaps a tunnel through the mountains isn’t daunting enough for you? How about taking it underwater? You’ll want to head towards the Tokyo Bay Aqua-Line in Japan. The tunnel portion of this bridge-tunnel combo under Tokyo Bay extends 9.6 km (6 miles). It also offered me the opportunity to use the word "subaqueous" which isn’t something one encounters every day. Cool.
Google Street View stops short of the actual tunnel. It does extend onto this rather unusual platform at the tunnel entrance though. It has a bunch of shops, restaurants, and arcades which serve as a destination unto itself. I suppose it’s possible to go to the little man-made island, make an afternoon of it and go home without going through the tunnel. However if I’d just spent ¥3000 you better believe I’d go back and forth through that tunnel as many times as they’d let me pass. That’s a serious toll.
Longest Railroad Tunnel
I don’t have an image of what will be the the world’s longest railroad tunnel because it’s under construction in Switzerland. When it’s finished sometime around 2017 or 2018 it will extend an astounding 57 km (35.4 mi). It’s called the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT) and there’s an English version of their official website if you want all the details. German, Italian and French are also available. See you in a few years at the grand opening!
Longest Canal Tunnel
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Canals were an efficient method of transportation in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries until the railroads arrived. In many ways they’re an anachronism, but lots of them them have survived into the modern age for a variety of reasons including nostalgia.
Sure, canals needed tunnels just like other forms of land-based transportation. The longest canal tunnel still in existence can be found in Riqueval, France. It would built between 1802-1810 and it extends 5.67 km (3.5 mi).
Streetview has lots of great images in the area, but not of the actual canal entrance because the banks of the canal are raised and topped by vegetation. The satellite image is pretty good, though. You can follow its path by looking along the surface — simply follow the narrow line of trees.
It’s called the "Touage souterrain de Riqueval." Those of you who speak French probably have a great translation for that phrase but the best I figure was something like the "subterranean tow canal of Riqueval." Indeed, a small barge tows other barges along the canal and through the tunnel. French Wikipedia covers this site, as does this interesting YouTube video. You’ll really like the video if you enjoy slow moving canal boats emerging from tunnels. I liked it but I’m not sure what that says about me.
Longest I’m Not Sure What to Call It
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I couldn’t find this shared automobile – train tunnel on the Portage Glacier Highway in Whittier, Alaska on the Worlds Longest Tunnel page. Maybe it’s there. I don’t know. Oddly this was the one tunnel that got me interested in the topic and somehow led me to the website. I’ve had a fixation on this tunnel lately.
The Alaska Department of Transportation calls this the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel. They describe it as the "longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America."
It’s about 4 km (2.5 mi) so it’s not in the same class as some as the others. The interesting aspect, however, is that it’s the only land connection between Whittier and the outside world. The tunnel has room for a single lane of traffic so vehiclesmove back-and-forth on an established schedule. In addition there are occasional delays whenever a train needs to use it!