September 27, 2023

Excavation of Medellin’s Second Tube at Western Tunnel Highway to be Complete by October

Colombia’s national infrastructure agency (Agencia Nacional de Infraestructura, ANI) announced May 10 that excavation of the second tube of the “Tunel de Occidente” connecting Medellin westward to Santa Fe de Antioquia will be complete by October 2020.

The 4.6-kilometers-long, COP$420 billion (US$108 million) tunnel will enable four lines of divided highway as part of the “Mar 1” project linking Medellin to current and future Atlantic ports. The existing highway tunnel is restricted to two-way traffic on single lanes and suffers much congestion.

“The construction of the second tube of the Occidente tunnel has already registered a 75% progress in its excavation,” according to ANI. “It is expected that the tunnel staging or meeting of the two work fronts will take place in October 2020.”

Following national Health Ministry regulations, “all necessary preventive measures have been implemented for the care of workers defined in the biosafety protocol” to avoid Coronavirus infections, according to ANI.

Tunnels works continue 24 hours daily, seven days a week, employing “Jumbo Boomer XL3” robotic drilling technology, according to ANI.

“To date, a total of 3,456 meters have been excavated, 1,622 meters at the Medellín portal and 1,834 meters at the Santa Fe portal,” according to ANI.

Following excavation, next come paving, roofing, lighting, ventilation, safety and mechanical works in 2021 and 2022, with final completion expected by the end of 2022, according to ANI.

Including the tunnel expansion, the total “Mar 1” highway works are already 61% complete, added ANI executive vice-president Carlos García.

“Mar 1” not only includes the new tunnel and new four-lane highways between Medellin and Santa Fe de Antioquia, but also another 62 kilometers of highway upgrades between Santa Fe de Antioquia Cañasgordas, then connecting to “Mar 2.” A new, 426-meters-long bridge over the Cauca river connecting the Mar 1 highway project with the under-construction “Toyo” tunnel (Colombia’s longest) is also included.

Once complete, “Medellín and the coffee region will have a new alternative to go more quickly to the Caribbean Sea and the ports of Urabá. Today, a car takes eight hours to travel from Medellín to Necoclí, but with the Mar 1 and Mar 2 projects, this route is reduced to four hours,” according to ANI.

What’s more, the Mar 1 and Mar 2 projects — together with the under-construction ‘Autopistas Pacífico 1, 2, 3’ highways — “will facilitate foreign trade to and from the coffee region. Currently, the journey time in a truck from the coffee region to Urabá is 21 hours, but with the construction of these projects it will be reduced to 12 hours,” according to ANI.

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