Border tunnel study results expected by Apr.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Results of a feasibility study into the construction of a traffic tunnel between Argentina and Chile is expected by end-March or early April, a source connected to the process told BNamericas.

The tunnel would span center-north Chile's Region IV and Argentina's San Juan province, and guarantee passage between both countries during the entire year. The current Aguas Negras border pass, 4,000m-high in the Andes mountains, is subject to closures, in particular during the winter months.

There are two route options under study of an original five, said the source, adding that the more promising of the two options would entail a tunnel about 13.8km in length, which on Chile's side would begin at an altitude of 3,500m and slightly higher on the Argentine side.

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This option would cost an estimated US$25mn, but the final figure will depend on pending seismic-geographic information, said the source, adding that the project would also include an access tunnel for maintenance and to act as an escape route.

Argentine-Chilean consortium Consulbaires-Ingendensa is carrying out the study.

Should the tunnel be built, Argentina could seek financing from its US$400mn border-crossings and integration-corridors program, while Chile's highway department has said it is too early to say where its share of the funds would come from.

The project is considered a key work for pushing forward the bi-oceanic corridor between Region IV port Coquimbo and Brazilian port Porto Alegre.