The newly constructed Blanka Tunnel will increase car traffic in Prague's historic centre. The 1970s project is currently being implemented, and will indebt Prague for decades and turn transport development away from sustainable and citizen-friendly modes. The total length of the Northwestern part is 6.4 kilometres, with a cost of 1400 million EUR.
Background & Objectives
The idea of an inner urban ring road originally comes from the late 1970s. After 1989 a plan to cut Prague largest city park into two by a radial road was abandoned and a search began for other alternatives. These combine the outer urban ring with bypasses around the city centre. In 1993 there were 3 variants proposed by an expert commission and finally the Blanka tunnel construction was selected in 1996. In 1997 the project preparation works began and in 2003 the zoning permit was given. A year later the 1st exploration gallery was drilled. The contract with a construction company Metrostav was signed in 2006. Initial pricing of the entire tunnel project was estimated at up to 1079 million EUR.
The construction of the tunnel began with no prior public awareness in 2007 and it soon caused heavy traffic restrictions in parts of Prague 6 and Prague 7. The entire budget is funded by the City of Prague and the initial estimation of construction costs was 1170 million EUR. According to the original plans the tunnel would be operational by late 2012. However, due to problems with financing, the tunnel will most likely be opened in Spring 2014. Current estimates of actual costs now range around 1550 million EUR. In independent audit reports the tunnel is referred to as an example of financial “tunnelling”. In total 3 accidents occurred during the excavation work with collapses of the constructed tunnels.
As the project will enable more drivers to pass through city centre, the estimates indicate a 20% increase in private cars. This estimated increase in car traffic will clearly have an impact on the quality of life of people in the city centre. The construction has never passed an environmental impact assessment.
According to independent analysts the Blanka tunnel in Prague will affect air quality adversely, although municipality representatives claim the opposite. In 2009 the Prague Municipal Court cancelled the building permit for the construction of engineering networks. In 2010 the Supreme Administrative Court upheld this decision, however Metrostav (the construction company) claimed that part of the unauthorised construction was implemented without any information to the investor.
In 2010 Czech TV broadcasted an unpublicised message from a supervisor, which indicated that the project doesnot have sufficient technical supervision. The new management of the municipality increased the financial ceiling to 1400 million EUR, 330 million EUR over the original target.
Even if the project was completed within the original budget, the Blanka tunnel will definitely be the most expensive investment in the city’s history and will expose it to debt for decades to come. No authority seems to support the concerns of unhappy inhabitants. Many NGOs are against the tunnel construction which is rapidly changing Prague’s districts. A 1970s central planning approach was implemented in the 21st century, with little concern for the city centre environment and likely not solving the traffic situation either.