The Učka Tunnel is a single-tube road infrastructure on the A8 motorway (the TEN-T Road Network) in Croatia. Being part of the Istrian Y network, it is 9,10 m wide and 5,062 km long, the third longest in Croatia after the Mala Kapela and Sveti Rok tunnels.
Work on the road underground passage dug through the mountain Učka was taking place in period from 1964-68. This traffic connection is a key solution for the further development of roads in Istria, especially for connecting the road network in Istria with other in Croatia roads. The project of the tunnel was made in 1972 in the Institute IGH. In order to provide partial financial support for implementation of the project, the Istrian municipality provided a nationwide loan, and the city of Rijeka co-financed the project by a commercial loan of the Rijeka Bank. After the decision about the construction next step were test bore, and at the same time access roads and viaducts were built as well as sufficient water and electrical power supply for the purpose of the tunnel use. The contract about building the tunnel was concluded in 1976 with GP Hidroelektra from Zagreb and Konstruktor from Split. The management of the tunnel along the road Matulji - Lupoglav, was taken in 1981 by the company RO Učka tunnel.
Fig.1 Istrian ‘Y’ motorway
Fig.2 Tunnel Učka, West entrance
Concession project from 1995
The Republic of Croatia and the concessionaire, the company Bina-Istra dd, signed the concession contract in 1995 for the financing, construction, operation and maintenance of the "Adriatic highway". According to the concession agreement, the concessionaire signed a contract with the newly established company "Bina-Istra Operation and Maintenance" in 1998 for the operation management and maintenance of the highway and the tunnel Učka. It is equipped with the latest technology but- with the absence of emergency exits. Average daily traffic reaches to 8.000 vehicles (25% heavy vehicles) with the peak of 15.000 vehicles what gives the number of more than 60 million since the opening. In 34 years of operation there weren’t any traffic accidents with fatalities recorded. Behind the portal of the tunnel Učka on the Istrian side there are: single Viaduct (94m), the tunnel Zrinšćak II (45 m), Viaduct Vela Draga (124 m) and tunnel Zrinšćak I (196 m).
Modernization and construction of the second tube
During the period between 2004 and 2016 there have been some investments for the modernization of technological equipment of tunnel Učka. After the previous equipment renewal projects, such as the tunnel radio system, fire detection system, lighting system and video system (Automatic Incident Detection AID) including the incident detection system, the renewal of the illuminated signage project in the Učka Tunnel was completed at the beginning of 2010. In case of incidents, since the escape from the tunnel is of extreme importance for the safety of users, the new signage system precisely guides users to the exit from the tunnel. Additional safety is provided by physical barriers which are activated during incidents and prevent users from accessing dangerous areas. A new fire truck and equipment was bought what brings a control tunnel and fire center on a higher level. Due to the high demands for system efficiency, 83 cameras, 538 fire detectors, 39 fire hydrants, 102 ventilations and 38 SOS stations were built.
Construction permission for the second tube is obtained. The main design of the project is made in 2014. The construction of the second tunnel tube is ready and will begin after the ‘green light’ from the Ministry of the Maritime Affairs, Transport and Infrastructure. The second tube of the tunnel Učka is planned on the north side from the existing tube and spacing between tunnel tubes ranges from approximately 22 m on the portal Kvarner to about 100 m on the portal Istra. The width of the roadway will be 7.70 m and the length of the second tube 5,630m. Following the construction of the new tunnel tube requirements regarding emergency exits and the drainage for flammable and toxic liquids will be taken into account. The level of safety will be increased due to removal of the hazard of head - on collisions, and all this should be complete with the compliance of EU Directive 2004/54/EC.
Sources: Bina Istra
Građevinar 62 (2010) 9, 813-822
author: Matea Uhlik Vidović 08.06.2016