Both lanes of the Višňové highway tunnel near Žilina have finally been bored through. The ceremonial blasting of the final stretch of the second lane took place on September 6 while the first lane has been passable since August 28. The construction consortium presented the bores on September 13. Construction Minister Árpád Érsek (Most-Híd) did not attend the ceremony, sending only the message that there is no reason for celebration.
“The tunnel has been subject to a nine-month delay,” said Karolína Ducká, spokesperson of the Construction Ministry, as cited by the Hospodárske Noviny, adding that even longer delays hover over other goals of this project.
Originally the 14-km stretch of the D1 cross-country highway, part of which is the 7.5-km Višňové tunnel, should have been completed in December 2019. Even though the end of 2020 is now talked of as the date of its completion, the ministry has extended, at the request of the builder, the deadline for construction works to 2022.
The history of the Višňové tunnel goes back to 1998 when the then prime minister Vladimír Mečiar launched the deep boring of its control gallery, Hospodárske Noviny recalled. Years of chaos followed when firstly this highway stretch should have been built under a public-private partnership (PPP) project. After this plan was scrapped in 2010, the Slovak-Italian consortium of Dúha and Salini Impregilo won the contract with costs set at almost €500 million including VAT in 2014. Works on the future tunnel started in June 2015.
The Višňové tunnel with its 7.5 km length will be the longest tunnel in Slovakia and the seventh in Europe. It will be part of the D1 stretch Lietavská Lúčka Višňové-Dubná Skala. From the western side it will join the Hričovské Podhradie-Lietavská Lúčka stretch. This one is also under construction and should be completed in February 2019. From the western side it will join the already complete Dubná Skala-Turany stretch, bypassing the city of Martin.
After completion, the stretch with the Višňové tunnel will enable drivers traveling from Bratislava towards Košice to bypass Žilina from the southern side and thus bypass the problematic stretch regularly causing traffic jams below Strečno Castle. Driving time from Žilina to Martin should be shortened by about 15 minutes.