Cutting Edge: Dublin Port Tunnel
Designed to relieve traffic congestion by taking the largest transport trucks off surface streets, the newly opened Dublin Port Tunnel is the largest civil engineering project ever undertaken in Ireland.
Employing 5,000 people and 7.5 million man-hours over the course of its construction, the Port Tunnel is one of the the longest urban tunnels in Europe.
Needless to say, such an ambitious project required designers and engineers to tap some of the most advanced technology available; including two laser guided boring machines accurate to within 6mm of their target and requiring between 18 and 45 people to operate each.
The cutting edge technology doesn’t end with construction. To make sure traffic continues to run smoothly, the Dublin City Council has installed three separate state-of-the-art traffic management systems.
The first, dubbed Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) includes an in-ground "loops" system capable of detecting the speed of traffic and the number of cars in a certain area. This is combined with pole-mounted cameras that feed information directly to a command and control room in Dublin's Civic Offices.
A second system utilises number plate recognition cameras, which plot a vehicle's progress and speed. The cameras have been installed along the M1 and into Northern Ireland in conjunction with authorities there.
The third and final system, the port tunnel's own traffic management system, uses overhead gantries measuring the height of vehicles. Information is linked to warning systems and traffic lights to prevent a vehicle of more than 4.65 metres in height from entering the tunnel.
It can also detect the speed and distance of cars in the tunnel and can close the tunnel at one end if traffic is not moving at the other.
Officially opened on December 20, 2006 by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, the twin tunnels form a two-lane dual carriageway connecting Dublin Port with the M1 motorway close to Dublin Airport. The tunnels are linked every 250 metres by pedestrian cross passages, and every 1,000 metres by vehicle crossings, providing emergency exit routes. The overall length of the scheme is 5.6 km, of which 4.5 km is actual tunnel.
Originally only open to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) the tunnel is now open to all motorists provided they are willing to pay the high toll charged by the City Council.
By taking HGVs off already congested city streets officials believe the tunnel will radically improve the quality of life for not only regular commuters, but pedestrians, bus riders and cyclists in Dublin.
With large transport trucks diverted off main avenues and 40,000 new trees and shrubs planted along the route, road safety and air quality should improve, allowing all of Dublin to breathe more easily.