Historic day on the waterfront

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Thousands of people turned out Sunday for an historic chance to walk, for the first and only time, through a new six-lane tunnel under the fjord at Oslo’s eastern harbor. The new tunnel will steer traffic away from the waterfront area that already is the site of the Opera House and soon will sport a new Munch Museum and main city library.

UNUSUAL SUNDAY STROLL: It was nearly what the Norwegians call a "folkevandring," a public procession celebrating the near completion of a new transportation artery through the heart of Oslo that's enabling development of entirely new cultural, residential and commercial districts in the capital. PHOTO: Views and News

The entire waterfront area along the harbour known as Bjørvika, just east of the Akershus Fortress and Castle, is undergoing massive, long-term redevelopment. City officials last week approved construction of the new Munch Museum and a new library (Deichmanske bibliotek) at Bjørvika. The public was invited on Sunday to explore Bjørvika, view plans and walk or cycle through the tunnel that’s aimed to eliminate through-traffic in the now-heavily congested area.It mostly remains a construction zone at present, but within the next decade Bjørvika will be the home of the new and greatly expanded Munch Museum, the library, waterfront promenades and hundreds of new homes and offices.

Emerging from the tunnel at what will be an entrance near the ferry terminal at Vippetangen. PHOTO: Views and News

Already anchored by the state-financed Opera House, the city now has approved the purchase of two adjacent properties currently owned by the state harbor authority’s real estate division (now called HAV Eiendom).The city of Oslo will pay NOK 328 million (about USD 55 million) for the properties and approved a design for the new Munch Museum by Spanish architect Juan Herreros and Norwegian partner LPO Arkitekter.

Construction of the Munch Museum is due to start in the first half of 2011 and be completed by 2014, in time for Norway’s bicentennial celebrations. Construction of the new city library is also due to get underway by 2011.

Just east of the Munch Museum will rise the new residential and commercial area known as Sørenga . Built on a former cargo pier stretching into the fjord, the new neighbourhood will sport 950 waterfront homes just under the hill known as Ekeberg. Plans also call for a gondola up to the Ekeberg Plateau.

Just north of the Opera House and the two museums lies the so-called “bar code” development of office and residential high rises. There also are ambitious redevelopment plans for the area around the nearby Oslo Central Station, unveiled in detail for the public on Sunday.

Tunnel’s important role
The underwater tunnel plays a major role in the waterfront redevelopment plans. On Sunday afternoon, it opened temporarily so that the public could stroll or cycle its 1.1 kilometer length from the east to west, just south of the Opera House.

Called senketunnelen , because it literally was sunk into place, it’s the first of its kind in Norway. Builders Skanska and NCC initially dug a 100-meter-wide trough on the bottom of the fjord, then sunk into it six concrete and metal tunnel sections that were built at a dry dock in Bergen and towed to Oslo. Water was pumped out, the sections sealed and gravel poured into place along each side.

The tunnel will handle the traffic on the E18 and E6 highways that now thunders in front of the Opera House, and connect with tunnels that already run under Ekeberg and the Akershus Fortress. It will open for traffic next year.