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Joy as new tunnel opens in Westfjords

27.10.2020 - 12:21
The long-awaited Dýrafjörður tunnel in the Westfjords was formally opened on Sunday, relieving the mountain road over Hrafnseyrarheiði. The man who has looked after ploughing the road for nearly half a century says it was high time for the tunnel. Children at the school in Þingeyri say they will not miss driving over the pass.

Hundreds of cars queued to be among the first to travel through the tunnel. Everyone was welcome, but due to the pandemic, people were asked to stay in their cars. Opening speeches from the transport minister and the head of Vegagerðin (the Road and Coastal Administration) took place in Reykjavík and were broadcast around the tunnel on FM for people in their cars to listen in on. 

The tunnel connects the landward end of Dýrafjörður fjord with Arnarfjörður. As well as providing a safer road that will not close for snow, it also shortens the route by around 27 kilometres. The old road often closes completely due to snow and sometimes remains closed for many weeks. 

Þingeyri schoolchildren have been surprisingly central to the fight for the new tunnel, holding their very own ground-breaking ceremony at the site in 2010. Seven years later, the official ceremony broke ground and construction began. 

First through the 5.6 kilometre tunnel this weekend were a coach full of students from Þingeyri school, and Gunnar Gísli Sigurðsson, who has ploughed Hrafnseyrarheiði since 1974. 

Gunnar told RÚV it felt good to see the tunnel open and that he will not miss ploughing the mountain pass. 

The Þingeyri school kids wrote a letter to the Minister for Transport and Local Government asking if they could be the first to travel through the tunnel. The minister granted their wish and the children say they are happy to stop travelling over the pass, which can be as scary as it is beautiful. 

The above video (in Icelandic) shows the new tunnel, and also scenes from the challenging conditions Gunnar faced ploughing the old road. 

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Alexander Elliott
Fréttastofa RÚV