The first phase of the Republic of Turkey’s Marmaray tunnel is now complete, and was celebrated in tandem with the country's 90th anniversary as a republic. // © 2013 Thinkstock, WikiCommons
Turkey rang in its 90th anniversary as a republic with the inauguration of the Marmaray Rail Tube Tunnel and Commuter Rail Mass Transit System, the first ever tunnel to connect Asia and Europe.
The Oct. 29 event marked the completion of the first phase of the project.
The high-speed system connects the East and West parts of Istanbul via an immersed eight-mile tunnel under the Bosphorus Strait. When completed, the entire project will include three new underground stations, 37 renovated surface stations, new electrical systems, modern rail cars and upgraded tracks. A new operations control center, workshops and maintenance facilities will complete the transit system.
Officials hope that the tunnel will alleviate traffic in Istanbul and eventually allow for a train route connecting Western Europe and China.
To further grow its economy and to increase tourism, Istanbul also plans to build a new airport and a shipping canal. The airport will have six runways and service approximately 150 million travelers every year, making it the third airport in the city and one of the largest in the world. The project will cost an estimated $9 billion dollars and is slated for a first-stage opening in 2017.
The 30-mile-long Istanbul Canal will allow 85,000 ships to pass from the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara and will relieve the ship traffic on the Bosphorus. The Bosphorus currently handles 51,000 ships per year.