BERING STRAIT TUNNEL OBSERVATION
Source: Victor Nikolaevich Razbegin, Deputy Head of Deputy Chairman of the Council for the Study of Productive Forces of Russian Federation.
Some interesting facts and data regarding the proposed construction of a Bering Strait Tunnel linking the conventional railroads of North America, Asia and Europe.
■ On the United States side the proposed Bering Tunnel would begin at Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska. The nearby city of Wales has a population of 156, paved roads and about 80 buildings including a large school, a general store and an airport. The other end of the undersea tunnel would emerge at the rural settlement of Uelen in Russia's Chukotsky District.
■ The railway line on the Russian side would continue on to the microdistrict of Ozyorny, located 8 miles (13 km) to the North of the Russian town of Egvekinot – which is a seaport on Kresta Bay. From there, skirting the nearby gulf, the railway would go to the cities of Anadyr, Magadan, Oymyakon and finally Yakutsk. There it would connect to the existing Baikal-Amur Mainline and the Trans-Siberian Railway systems. China and other Asian and European countries would all be accessible.
■ On the U.S. side the rail tunnel could be connected with Fairbanks, Alaska through the cities of Buckland, Huslia and Tanana – or through the slightly longer southern route via the city Galena on the north bank of the Yukon River, and then on to Tanana and Fairbanks.
■ The Southern route may go in Alaska from Wales to Nome, Koyuk, in the tunnels through Kaiyuh and Kuskokwim Mountains to Nikolai, through Alaska Range and passing Susitna River to Willow, Palmer, Glennallen, and to Canada.
■ It is also proposed that the tunnel pass under both Little and Big Diomede Islands which could be sited ventilation shafts and other facilities. Both Little Diomede (USA) and Big Diomede (Russia) have, in fact, been settled for centuries. Archeological findings date back over two thousand years. Little Diomede has a Inalik native village with a population of about 200 plus a high school, a store, a post office, a community hall and many residences.
The terrain of the Diomedes is similar to the fiords of Norway or the rolling grassy hills of Scotland. In wintertime, the surface of the Bering Strait itself is frozen.
■ Where the tunnels pass under America's Krusenstern Island (Small Diomede), a railway station could be built allowing passengers elevator access to the island. A world-class hotel would provide them with a mid-Strait vista of the confluence of the Pacific and Arctic Oceans. A stay at this iconic hotel, along with a journey on the magnetic levitation train serving it, would surely become a tourist attraction in its own right. A similar facility could be created on Russia's neighboring Ratmanov Island (Big Diomede).
■ The tunnel project will actually involve construction of three parallel tunnels under the Bering Strait connecting the U.S. and Russia, along with sections of railway linking to the rail systems on each of the two continents.
■ Both of the two double-deck main tunnels (each 54 feet/16.5 meters outside diameter, 49 feet/15 meters inside diameter) will accommodate two-way traffic between Alaska and Russia. Both tunnels will also include two levels of traffic: the bottom part will have a heavier railway for high-speed cargo and passenger rail traffic; an upper level will include space for magnetic levitation trains, one or two lanes for automobiles, and additional space for a future Airless Maglev Tube Transport system (at speeds of up to 4,000 miles per hour). Still other space at the right and left "corners" of the bottom level will be used for water, gas and oil pipelines plus electrical and fiber optic cables.
According to Dean Workman, vice president of the conveyor division at the Robbins Company, "large-diameter tunnels are actually easier to work with than small-diameter tunnels because you have much more room in the tunnel. In small-diameter tunnels everything is compacted and it is hard to find real estate for the conveyor in addition to the ventilation and utility lines. In the larger tunnels there is not only more room in the profile but also in the trailing gear". (Tunnel Business Magazine, June 2017, page 18.)
■ A third tunnel (23 feet/7 meters outside diameter, 5.5 meters/18 feet inside diameter), built between the two main tunnels, will provide emergency access corridors to each main tunnel at regular intervals along the entire route. It will also house a road for use by emergency and maintenance vehicles.
Source: Cooperative design architectural company A-2, Novosibirsk, Russia.
■ The length of each tunnel will be about 74 miles/119 kilometers or more, which includes the width of the Bering Strait (64 miles/103 km) plus a distance not less than 5 miles/8 kilometers inland on each coast. This will result in better access for trains utilizing the tunnels.
■ Completion of the entire project will take 12-15 years, at an estimated cost of $35 billion.
■ Excavation of the undersea tunnels will produce crushed basalt gravel (approximately 50 million cubic meters / 55 million cubic yards) which can be used in the construction of railway beds extending beyond each end of the tunnel. The quantity of this gravel product will be sufficient to lay a rail bed 20 inches (51 cm) deep at a width of 41 feet (12.5 meters), extending 4,873 miles (7,843 km) in length. This will cover the distance from the Bering Strait to Canada in America and much of the necessary access railway in Russia.
■ This gravel by-product also explains why construction of the interhemispheric North America - Eurasia railroad project should start with the tunnel portion. Moving the resulting crushed stone from the tunnel excavation site along future access rail beds will keep down the cost of their construction.
Photo: Fyodor Soloview.
■ Construction will go on 24 hours per day. The tunnel workers will be laboring around 100 feet (30 meters) below sea level in an environment with a steady temperature of 25-30° Celsius (77-86° degrees Fahrenheit). The cooling system inside the tunnels will not therefore require air conditioning (a big savings!) because cool air can simply be vented in from the outside.
■ To house workers, engineers, equipment and materials huge underground depots will be constructed at the entrances to the tunnels. These will be designed to cover work areas from summer rain or winter snow (when outside temperatures may drop to -50° Celsius (-58° Fahrenheit). Warm tunnel air can be used to help keep depot temperatures moderate.
■ If equipped with high-speed trains run by magnetic levitation (with speeds of up to 300 miles per hour/480 km per hour) they will be the first use of such technology for profit. Tourists will be able to cross between the U.S. and Russia in just 15-20 minutes, with further links to Alaskan international airports in Fairbanks and Anchorage.
The future of public transportation is going to be dominated by less energy-consuming solutions - the likes of magnetic levitation that we already see on the Maglev trains in Japan, China, and South Korea.
Designer: Darina Shi, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation.
■ Extending the proposed underwater tunnel inland, beyond the 5-10 miles envisioned, may make economic sense. The combination of railways, highways and utility lines may actually be cheaper to build and maintain below ground than above ground in Arctic climes.
■ First of all, instead of building a series of roads and railways meandering along the slopes and foothills of mountain ranges, interspersed with mountain tunnels and bridges-a continuous tunnel could provide the shortest distance between points. The cost of constructing multiple surface tunnels might be more than that of a continuous underground tunnel. Things like the cost of preparation of the sites for each entry and exit to/from smaller tunnels, plus the relocation of boring machines and other construction equipment, quickly adds up.
■ Secondly, every structure on the surface would need to be maintained during long Arctic winters with frequent snowfalls. This would likewise eat into profits. Far less winter expense would apply to underground infrastructure. The profitability of the interhemispheric railroad between North America and Asia would depend on continuous and on-time circulation of trains carrying cargo and passengers. Heavy snows have the potential of disrupting traffic flow and impacting revenues.
■ The third, and probably the most costly expense in building roads and railways in the Arctic is the presence of permafrost – and the continuous freezing and unfreezing of the ground beneath thousands of miles of road or track. To avoid damage to rail and road beds, current practice involves widespread use of piles, and overpasses or bridges. Tunneling underground avoids all of this, while simultaneously providing space for utility lines and pipelines.
Photo: Craig Scola.
■ Underground transportation also carries the advantage that trains carrying passengers or cargo will require less inside insulation and heating. Cargo trains carrying containers with delicate electronic goods, plastics or liquids will be better protected from harsh outside conditions or damage to merchandise.
■ Yet another element in lowering the cost of construction by tunneling would be in avoiding environmental problems. Less ecological regulation comes into play in planning a tunnel route-while a surface railway project might be drowned for years in tons of paperwork to get regulatory approval. Each water stream, animal migration route or unique natural object would potentially be an expensive and time-consuming obstacle to construction, affecting the entire enterprise. A tunnel would not damage anything on the surface, and would involve the shortest possible route.
■ With all the above advantages in mind, the delivery of construction equipment and materials could be accomplished using the existing Alaska Railroad and the seaports in Anchorage and Valdez. The city of Fairbanks could become the starting point of a new era of global transportation, with the State of Alaska acknowledged for helping bring about a new world transportation infrastructure.
Potential transshipment facility layout including an axle-gauge changeover point at the Alaska tunnel entrance.
Author: Thomas Scholler, Fribourg, Switzerland. Transfer Station at Alaska Portal.
Concept Study on the Electric Power Supply of the Bering Strait Tunnel.
Whether the proposed railroad tunnel is limited to the Bering Strait or extends along the route to Fairbanks, or whether it is built (as per InterBering) strictly with private funding or includes State and federal monies – it requires capital now to begin feasibility studies and to properly survey the proposed transportation corridor. Having all this completed will allow us to refine our cost estimates and to further clarify project options.
As all this could take up to 15 years to achieve, promotion work cannot begin soon enough!
Source: InterBering Archive.
The Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARC) should also apply for federal funding to extend the railroad to the west, through Alaska's interior and up to the Bering Strait – with the objective of continuing to Russia via the Strait. The ARC could thus open vast areas of the State containing mineral deposits, human resources and added tourist attractions.
The ARS experience in building and maintain railroads using State and federal funds, together with InterBering's links with private investors, Russian railroad construction companies and Russian government organizations – can together bring about a new and exciting phase of Alaska state development.
The Alaska Railroad Corporation could help begin this by building the stretch of railway from Fairbanks to the Bering Strait. The Bering Strait Tunnel itself could be planned and constructed by other subcontractors having direct experience in tunnel construction.
Photo: Fyodor Soloview.
On the Russian coast, the Bering tunnel will be connected with the future railroad coming from Moscow and constructed by the JSC High-Speed Rail Lines, the associated company of Russian Railways, or its successors and assigns. Currently, JSC High-Speed Rail Lines is in charge of developing the first stage of the first Russian two-line high-speed 1007-mile (1620-km) railroad Moscow – Vladimir – Nizhny Novgorod – Cheboksary – Kazan – Ekaterinburg with travel time 8 hours and maximun speed up to 249 miles per hour (400 km per hour.)
Source: JSC High-Speed Rail Lines.
New High-Speed Train from China to US?
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