Havana tunnels engineering in present and past

Havana tunnels engineering in present and past

HAVANA, 19. Aug. When will repair work on the Havana Bay Tunnel return? It’s the silent question every time I cross that,the main one of the three underwater routes that the capital has. Hopefully, the answer is close.

An optimistic thought arose when reading the information about the maintenance tasks managed for those on Calle Línea and Quinta Avenida.

I confess that I was surprised because today nothing escapes the permanent setbacks that constitute the Yankee blockade and the financial limitations of the country to acquire equipment and resources. That is why these investments are doubly appraised.

It never hurts to recognize what maintenance means for any work, not only because it implies extending the useful life, but also, especially in the case at hand, because of the peace of mind and comfort it provides drivers and passengers.

The Provincial Road Safety Commission announced that the Conservative Tunnel Company would work in the Line tunnel from Monday, July 17, to Monday, July 24, while as of August 10, it decreed the closure to traffic of the tunnel linking Vedado with Miramar. , whose reopening is scheduled before the end of this month, even ahead of the planned schedule.

Havana tunnels engineering in present and past

Havana Bay Tunnel

Tribuna de La Habana published both articles that, although they were not followed up by the issuers, did raise some concerns from the readers, as they point to actions abroad linked in one way or another with the vitality of the tunnels and the good development of citizen life.

The comment about the need to have included in the scheduled tasks, the cleaning of the sewers, from 2nd to 10th streets, on 5th Avenue, “which are full of dirt, cans, garbage” is reiterated.

It is not idle to take into account that we are entering the most dangerous months of the cyclonic season in the North Atlantic and the Caribbean when some of its meteorological phenomena can be in charge of reminding us of the lack of systematicity in the unobstructed of storm drainage systems, object company detached from the Conservative Tunnel Company but that is on the land of some entity and must be an occupation of the pertinent authorities.

Did you know that…

.-The three tunnels were built in the 50s of the last century, to enable communications to the East and West of the capital.

.- The pioneer was the Linea, inaugurated in mid-1953. It has flooded four times: The first time was the day after its official opening. The others occurred in 1992, in October 2005 ─one of the consequences of Hurricane Wilma─; and in September 2017, due to the very strong waves caused by the winds of Hurricane Irma.

.-In the time of the evacuation of the waters in the area where the western tunnels are located, they influence everything from the tide to the cleaning of the drains.

They are located in a completely flat area, lower than sea level, especially in the Miramar area, to the point that the high tide in normal times reaches the park in front of Casalta.

Add to that the degree of obsolescence of the pluvial network and, most importantly, the fact that urban growth occurred on land that was an outlet for water by absorption.

The tubes that make up the line tunnel ducts were cast in situ, and perhaps because of the technology used, it lacks the settling problems that lead to cracks, as occurs in the other two.

One of the first in the world

Havana tunnels engineering in present and past

The Havana Bay Tunnel was erected in 32 months, with the most advanced engineering at an international level. Operations ended in May 1958, although exploitation did not begin until seven months later. It is considered one of the first underwater tunnels in the world and one of the seven wonders of civil engineering in Cuba.

With this work, the distance that separated the Historic Center of the capital with Havana del Este was reduced from 25 kilometers to 500 meters, which contributed to the development of the city towards that cardinal point and allowed for a more direct route to Matanzas and the resort of Varadero.

Its project and tender were awarded to the French entity Societé des Grands Travaux de Marseille, although in accordance with current legislation, the optional management of the project and its execution were occupied by the Cuban engineer José Menéndez Menéndez*.

The Línea Street and Fifth Avenue tunnels are close to the mouth of the Almendares River. Both replaced two separate bridges built at the beginning of the previous century, which linked Vedado and the Miramar neighborhood.

To erect the first one, it was unavoidable that the bottom of the excavation be dry, something difficult since the lowest part was 13.60 meters below the level of the current. In order to achieve this, a box of steel sheet piles was made, which limited the work area.

In the Miramar area, where the soil is very soft to a great depth, the system of multiple tube wells (well points) was used. In order not to interrupt navigation, the work was divided into two stages.

 Havana tunnels engineering in present and past

5th avenue tunnel

Its construction required, among other tasks, excavating more than 75 thousand cubic meters of earth and rock; using 35 thousand cubic meters of concrete; as well as injecting 10,000 cubic meters of cement mortar, and placing almost 22,000 square meters of waterproof membrane. The tunnel’s capacity was calculated so that 2,500 vehicles would pass through it in one hour for each lane.

The triad of underwater conduits in Cuba would be completed to respond to the urban development of western Havana. It turns out that the bascule bridge called de Pote, with only two tracks, had to be raised every time a yacht that anchored in the Almendares River passed by, which caused continuous roadblocks of more than a kilometer on Fifth Avenue and on Calle Road.

Modify it or build a tunnel? This last decision won and because it was the least expensive variant, it was located in the same place as the bridge, after demolishing it.

They say that such action led to major work. They began in February 1958 and in just 25 days the superstructure and the 50-ton counterweights were removed, however, the extraction of the piles took until August of that year.

The contractor group, the French company Societé des Grands Travaux de Marseille, invested about 16 months in both works; and used the same method used for the underwater route that already crossed the Havana roadstead. With its inauguration, the constructive era of works of this type in Cuba closed.

Tunnel data according to construction projects.



Length (meters) 210 220 733

Free height (meters) 4.20 4.25 7.00

Free draft (meters) 3.60 3.60 13.00

Vehicles per day 40,000 40,000 60,000

Total Cost (USD) + 5,395,000 +6,054,000 30,000,000

Start date 9/ 1951 2/ 1958 6/ 1955

Completion date 5/ 1953 5/ 1959 5/ 1958