Wednesday, September 05, 2007

WOULD YOU DO IT?

If you could take a train from, say, Miami, to London the long way around, would you do it? The question seems irrelevant since the Pacific Ocean is a reasonably major impediment. However, I came across an article last night that raised the possibility.

How, you say? Well, look for the part of the Pacific that is narrowest, then either build a bridge or a tunnel either over or under it (respectively). It would apparently be possible to either build three bridges totaling about 50 miles, with the two longest spans being about as long as the causeway that takes you over Lake Pontchartrain into New Orleans. Alternatively, a train tunnel could be built under the straits. The tunnel would be twice as long as the tunnel under the English Channel. In either case, the technical challenges would be absolutely tremendous and the cost would be staggering. On top of all that, North America and Russia use different railroad gauges.

As nifty as it might be to take a train from the East Coast to London using the two longest tunnels in the world, it is hard to fathom why anyone seriously considers this idea. There are no roads into the interior from Nome on the Alaska side. Apparently fewer than 50,000 people live on the two sides of the straits (total) and there is no regular traffic across the straits now. In other words, there is absolutely market pressure for this. The Chunnel was built in a place with tremendous population on either side of the channel, and signifcant traffic and trade. The Oresund Bridge was built in an area with twin cities and tremendous ferry traffic. The Bering Straits Bridge and/or Tunnel has none of these advantages. It is cool to think about though.

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