The Blanka Tunnel Complex has been approved use, over four years after cars started driving through it. Until now, it had been in trial operation.
The change in designation means little for drivers, but is a source of relief for City Hall. They will now be able to concentrate on the construction of the related inner ring road. Administration of the tunnel complex and routine maintenance will now be handled by the city’s Technical Road Administration (TSK), which operates other Prague tunnels.
The trial operation occurred to detect potential shortcomings and to help automate tunnel management and maintenance.
“I took up the post, saying that the long, and, for Praguers, often unpleasant chapter on the Blanka tunnel had to close as soon as possible. Therefore, I reorganized the Municipal Investment Department and created a department purely for the inner ring road so that we can finish with approval as quickly as possible. And we succeeded today,” Deputy Minister Adam Scheinherr (Praha sobě) said on the City Hall website.
The main reason for the delay was the departure of the technological equipment supplier and the original provider of the trial operation, ČKD Praha Diz. The overall completion and modifications of the supplied equipment was a large part of the workload of all participants in the trial operation.
By obtaining final building approval and shifting the agenda to the TSK, the new City Ring Department managed to fulfill a great task, City Hall said. Municipal officials can now devote their full capacity to further downstream constructions, preferably continuing preparations to complete the northeastern part of the inner ring road.
Documentation for the zoning decision to continue the inner ring road will be provided, property rights negotiations with the owners will start, and a way of financing the project will be sought.
The approval for the capital also formally means that the investment costs for the construction of the tunnels will not increase further.
The Blanka Tunnel Complex opened September 19, 2015, some four years behind schedule. Planning started in 1993 and construction began in 2006. The cost at the time of opening was at least 43 billion CZK, while the initial budget was 21.2 billion CZK. It is about 5.5 kilometers long and has three sections: Bubenečský, Dejvický and Brusnický. Overall, it can carry 30 million cars per year.
It is closed to pedestrians, but in its first year of operation, some 270 people tried to cross the tunnel on foot including two women with baby carriages. Some wildlife has been spotted using the tunnel including rabbits, foxes and weasels.
Plans for an inner ring road go all the way back to the 1960s, when three concentric rings were proposed. Current plans call for two, the inner ring road, or Městský okruh, and outer ring road, or (Pražský okruh). While the city is responsible for the inner ring road, the outer one is being overseen by the Transport Ministry.