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Choke Points

New York State approves first-in-the-nation congestion pricing plan
With the $175 billion New York State budget locked in for 2020, so too is congestion pricing on drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street. While the specifics have yet to be hammered out, the plan is the first to be imposed in the United States. Charging drivers who enter Manhattan’s central business district (CBD) is expected to have a number of effects: reducing traffic, cutting pollution, and raising money for the beleaguered subway system, managed by the state-controlled Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA). That last point had previously caused tension between Governor Andrew Cuomo, who supported congestion pricing as a way to raise money for subway repairs, and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who wanted to impose a “millionaire’s tax” on high earning New York City residents. The price that each driver will be charged upon entering or exiting the CBD has yet to be determined, but a six-person Traffic Mobility Board will determine the fee before the plan goes into effect. It should be noted that the board will be composed of one member selected by the mayor, and the rest being residents of areas served by the Metro-North Railroad or Long Island Railroad (LIRR), New York's major suburban train lines, also managed by the MTA. Drivers will only be tolled once per day, through a series of EZ Pass cameras—or, if the driver lacks an EZ Pass, license plate-snapping cameras—mounted in yet-to-be-determined locations. Governor Cuomo’s Fix NYC Advisory Panel, which released its final report in January of last year, had suggested charging personal vehicles $11.52 to enter Manhattan, charging trucks $25.34, and $2-to-$5 for for-hire vehicles. The program hopes to raise $1 billion through congestion fees annually that the state will use to back $15 billion in bond sales to fund repairs to the ailing subway system. While the budget promises to carve out exemptions for lower-income drivers, 80 percent of the funds raised will go towards subway and bus-related capital projects in the city, and the remaining 20 percent will be set aside for the Metro-North and LIRR. Additionally, the program will be set up and administered by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority (TBTA) part of the MTA, in collaboration with New York City's Department of Transportation. Handing over the program to the state, and, in particular, Westchester and Long Island in the case of the Traffic Mobility Board, has riled up online transportation activists, who feel the congestion plan was a move by the state to take more control of NYC’s streets. Because the Traffic Mobility Board members are appointed by the MTA, they have the discretion to reject the mayor’s appointees. With so much of the plan still left to be filled in, the earliest that drivers can expect to begin paying is the end of 2020, if not sometime in 2021.
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Is There A Chance The Track Will Bend?

Canada hops on the Hyperloop train with Montreal-to-Toronto study
Hyperloop routes are spreading all over the world, at least theoretically. The government of Canada is the latest to get on board, as Transport Canada, the national transportation agency, put out a request for proposals (RFP) on March 26 to study the feasibility of building such a system to connect Montreal to Toronto. While no Hyperloop systems have been built yet, despite an endless string of competitions and proposals, the benefits are enticing enough that state and country governments are constantly studying the idea. By digging or elevating sealed, airless tunnels and propelling pods along on electric “skates,” hyperloop systems could hypothetically transport passengers or cargo at over 600 miles per hour. Those kinds of speeds would allow passengers to travel from Toronto to Montreal in only 39 minutes, or Toronto to Vancouver in only three hours. The system promises to be faster, cheaper, and more efficient than high-speed rail or the magnetically-levitated trains found across Asia. To better understand whether the technology can scale, the government is judging proposals on the following criteria:
  • The hyperloop concept can be transformed into a viable technology that is safe for passengers and the communities where the tubes traverse
  • The hyperloop technology cost is comparable or is significantly more affordable than conventional high-speed rail systems or developing maglev technologies
The deadline for proposals is May 10, and Transport Canada hopes to aggregate as much existing hyperloop literature as it can while receiving answers to its pressing engineering and economic concerns. Questions about the potential projects abound. For instance, are hyperloop pods intrinsically limited to carrying 28-to-40 passengers? If a train breaks down in a pressurized, no-oxygen environment, or if the power goes out, will the pods’ life support systems be able to operate on battery power long enough for the train to reach the next station? Will trains running in urban areas be forced to travel at lower speeds? Why would this system cost less than its competitors, if there's no real-world data to go on? Other than these important questions, the authority is also looking to examine whether the technology can be adapted for freight transport, and what sort of regulatory oversight would be required to manage a Hyperloop system.
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Ordamental

Studio Gang chosen to head massive O'Hare expansion
After the release of a star-studded shortlist last November and the subsequent proposals in January, the city of Chicago has chosen Studio ORD Joint Venture Partners to design the $2.2 billion O’Hare Global Terminal and Global Concourse at O’Hare International Airport. The winning team consists of Chicago’s own Studio Gang, the international Corgan Associates, as well as local firms Solomon Cordwell Buenz and STL Architects. Studio ORD’s proposal is themed around convergence and features multiple elements that join together in geometrically intricate ways. The terminal’s massing consists of three U-shaped ribbed structures that join in the middle, creating a rooftop “island” and central skylight. Each segment peaks at the center, reminiscent of a mountain. Timber will be used heavily throughout the 2.2-million-square-foot building, as Studio ORD has proposed cladding the underside of each rib, and many elements of the interior, such as the escalators, in wood. Additionally, from the video released as part of their proposal, it seems that the terminal’s interior will be well planted. The team has described their terminal as densely programmed, but easy to navigate, and it appears that the central void below the skylight will anchor the scheme. The O’Hare Global Terminal will replace the existing Terminal 2, which was built in 1963. The new building is part of the $8.5 billion O’Hare 21 expansion, which will modernize the airport and expand its footprint from 5.5 million square feet to 8.9 million square feet. Even though Studio ORD has taken home the design competition’s top prize, the remaining four teams are still in the running to design two new satellite concourses adjacent to Terminal 1. The city will decide on the winner in the coming months. The O’Hare Global Terminal is expected to break ground in 2023.
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ATL DOT

Atlanta announces its first-ever city department of transportation
Last week, Atlanta’s Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced the city will be setting up its first-ever transportation department. As one of the largest municipalities in the United States and one with debilitating congestion issues, this is a huge step in bringing more equitable mobility for Atlanta locals. The move is part of the mayor’s One Atlanta agenda, which aims to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion through the creation of a safe and welcoming city with world-class infrastructure, services, employment opportunities, and more. She aims to build a better-connected city through the new DOT, which will oversee the management of Atlanta’s 1,500 miles of streets, as well as its sidewalks and bike lanes. The agency will consolidate the road construction and repair efforts of the City’s Department of Public Works along with the planning department’s Office of Mobility. Capital roadway projects that are currently part of the city’s infrastructure investment program will also be integrated into the new DOT’s list of duties. Janette Sadik-Khan, former head of New York’s DOT and transportation official at Bloomberg Associates, will advise Atlanta in the creation of its own office. “A city’s success begins with its streets, and a dedicated department is critical to putting the transportation pieces together,” she said in a statement. “Atlanta has an unprecedented opportunity to change course on transportation, and Mayor Bottoms is showing the strong leadership that a city needs not to just grow but to make real progress for Atlantans.” The Atlanta Regional Commission estimates the metro region—which consists of nine Georgian counties and 5.8 million people—will increase in population by 2.5 million before 2040. While many working-class families in Atlanta rely on the city’s public transit services, including the MARTA system, it’s still a car-ridden town and organized offices such as the new DOT are expected to boost the region’s connectivity and help with long-term planning. Last December, Mayor Bottoms released Atlanta’s new transportation plan that will concurrently guide the future expansion of the city’s transportation services, increase its access and affordability, and help diminish Atlanta's overall dependency on cars.
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Roll Out

Driverless shuttles set to take over the Brooklyn Navy Yard later this year
New York City’s (and the state’s) first self-driving shuttles are arriving before the end of the second quarter, but they won’t be making life-or-death decisions on Manhattan’s busy streets. Instead, the Boston-based autonomous driving startup Optimus Ride, which was spun off from MIT, will bring driverless shuttles to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The 300-acre industrial campus is seemingly the perfect place to test autonomous vehicles (AVs) within the five boroughs. The yard is isolated, about a 15-minute walk from the nearest subway station (although a shuttle runs between the two), though a new ferry stop will open at the Yard in May. The enclosed Navy Yard also uses private streets, negating the need for city or state approval, and drastically reduces the congestion—both other vehicles and humans—that these shuttles will expect to face. Thanks to the Yard’s relative isolation, the entire area can be geofenced off or mapped down to the slightest detail ahead of the shuttles’ deployment to prevent them from leaving the bounded area. The technology has been used to great effect elsewhere, namely AV testing grounds where every variable can be controlled; the difficulty in expanding the use of self-driving cars has namely been to real-world unpredictability. According to Optimus Ride, the company's shuttles will offer the Navy Yard’s 9,000 employees a convenient way to get around the campus. The vehicles will loop from the new ferry stop and around to the public-facing Flushing Avenue side. While the company hasn’t released details on the model of shuttle it will be using, the company has previously deployed battery-powered vehicles capable of reaching speeds of up to 25-miles-per-hour elsewhere. It’s unclear what this will mean for the shuttle service that already operates on the Yard’s streets. “If this pilot abides by insurance and other non-traffic laws and remains confined to the Brooklyn Navy Yard—which is private—then it can operate,” a spokesperson for the mayor, Seth Stein, told The Verge. “The mayor has voiced his strong opposition to testing a new technology on our busy streets.” Optimus Ride also announced that it would be bringing its self-driving shuttles to the streets of Paradise Valley Estates, a private 80-acre planned community Fairfield, California. The move means that Optimus Ride will have AVs in four states, but for the time being, it seems that only self-contained, wealthier enclaves will benefit as the technology matures.
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Trainspotting

Diller Scofidio + Renfro beat a crowded shortlist for the Hungarian Museum of Transport
The Hungarian Museum of Transport is on the move, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), alongside local architecture firm Tempannon, has been chosen to design its new home in Budapest. Appropriately enough, the museum will move to a 17-acre site in the Northern Maintenance Depot in Kőbánya, a heavily industrialized area surrounded by both active and historical transportation infrastructure. The museum, one of the oldest transportation collections in Europe, is known for its wide showcase of both scale and full-sized buses, trains, cars, and other vehicles. The current building in Városliget has been closed for two years in anticipation of the move to the new site. The winning DS+R scheme heavily involves the idea of “ground transportation” and carving into the ground plane to afford visitors views from underneath the collection. By carving, lifting, and cutting into the ground, as well as using ample amounts of glass, the new museum will let guests explore the vehicles from every angle while still preserving them. Outside, a “Forecourt” will knit together the existing buildings on the site with the bike and pedestrian paths and railways. An intermingling of paved and landscaped areas, a picnic area, outdoor galleries, a café, and spaces for the nearby Törekvés Cultural Center will allow museum guests to decompress before and after entering. Carriage cars and locomotives will also adorn the Forecourt through a series of “breakout vitrines.” The museum itself will project from the Diesel Hall, a mid-century modern industrial building with nine, 360-foot-long parallel naves. Half of the new Grand Hall will remain in the Diesel building to reinforce the structure, while the other half will lie in the forecourt and create a symbolic bridge between old and new. A “second ground” will sit above the Gallery Hall and house space for special exhibitions, a museum café, and educational spaces, while providing uninterrupted views of the surrounding landscape. The museum's international design competition kicked off in August of last year. According to a statement by DS+R, the firm was selected out of a slew of other well-known practices: 3H Architecture, Amanda Levete Architects Ltd., Atelier Brückner GmbH, Bjarke Ingels Group, Caruso St John Architects, CÉH Zrt. + Foster & Partners, David Chipperfield Architects, Építész Stúdió Kft., KÖZTI Zrt. and Lacaton & Vassal Architects. No estimated completion date for the project has been given yet. As the proposed site sits on a brownfield, environmental remediation will need to be finished before construction can begin.
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High Speed, High Stakes

Elon Musk's high-speed Chicago rail project could hinge on the mayoral election
Elon Musk’s plan to dig 18-mile-long underground tunnels between Chicago’s Loop and O’Hare International Airport was never a done deal, and after the February 26 mayoral election to replace Rahm Emanuel, the project may never be realized. On the surface, Musk’s pledge to fund the $1 billion high-speed train system through the Boring Company at no cost to the city seems like a win-win, but as a new report from The Verge revealed, momentum may be building against the O’Hare Express System. With Mayor Emanuel on his way out, his pet project might not survive. As the Verge noted, Emanuel hasn’t used his veto power once in his nine-year tenure as mayor, and Musk had chosen Chicago for the first practical application of Boring Company technology thanks to the permissive regulatory atmosphere. The plan went public in June last year, but no firm details on what the city has agreed on have come out yet and at least one lawsuit has already been filed to release any public records. It appears that public communication on the project has gone silent, and an official contract between the Boring Company and nonprofit Chicago Infrastructure Trust—a body created to facilitate public-private partnership projects—has yet to materialize. The Boring Company can’t sign a contract with the city until a National Environmental Policy Act review is complete, but the review can’t commence unless the Boring Company releases concrete project details. The tunneling company may be laying low until after the election. Other than the mayor’s departure, the city council has been hit with a set of scandals that have made it reluctant to vote on new projects. Alderman Ed Burke was arrested in an FBI raid last month on charges of extortion—a raid made possible thanks to fellow alderman Danny Solis, who wore a wire for two years as part of the investigation. Now, Solis is retiring and refusing to vote on any development in his district until his replacement is elected, meaning that the council is down two members who have historically voted in lockstep with Mayor Emanuel. Of the 15 candidates on the ballot for mayor, many of them appear opposed to the high-speed rail line. The project was a point of contention at a candidate forum earlier this month, and many of the surveyed mayoral hopefuls told the Chicago Tribune that they would consider quashing the tunnel. Only candidate Bill Daley provided support for the rail tunnel, and even that was measured, as he called for a thorough evaluation of the project's cost. Many of the concerns were about the untested nature of the technology being used, as the Boring Company has only completed one test tunnel thus far, as well as cost and density concerns. While electrically-powered shuttles would be able to move people downtown at 150-miles-per-hour and cut transit times from Block 37 in the Loop to O’Hare to only 12 minutes, the system would only be capable of moving 1,900 people per hour. Tickets could cost up to $25. For comparison, the Blue Line is able to move twice as many people per hour along that same route for only $5.
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Gavin Problems?

President Trump threatens to cancel California’s high-speed rail funding
Why did California Governor Gavin Newsom stir up the proverbial hornets' nest with his vague and confusing comments regarding the state’s high-speed rail (HSR) plans last week? That’s become the $920 million question many are asking themselves now as President Donald Trump has threatened to—perhaps illegally—cancel a sizable grant already allocated to the project following days of confusing debate over the future of the high-speed line. During a “state of the state” speech last week, Newsom provided unclear backing for completing the full project as approved by California voters in 2008 when they passed Proposition 1A, a ballot measure that allocated $9.95 billion in general obligation bonds for the planning and construction of an 800-mile high-speed rail system connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles. During his speech, Newsom said:
The project, as currently planned, would cost too much and take too long. There’s been too little oversight and not enough transparency. Right now, there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to L.A. I wish there were. However, we do have the capacity to complete a high-speed rail link between Merced and Bakersfield. I know that some critics will say this is a ‘train to nowhere.’ But that’s wrong and offensive. The people of the Central Valley endure the worst air pollution in America as well as some of the longest commutes. And they have suffered too many years of neglect from policymakers here in Sacramento. They deserve better.
The comments were widely interpreted as a death knell for the L.A. and San Francisco spurs of the line, a characterization the governor disputed in the aftermath of the speech. Newsom spokesperson Nathan Click, speaking to the press, offered the following clarification: “The state will continue undertaking the broader project—completing the bookend projects and finishing the environmental review for the [San Francisco] to L.A. leg—that would allow the project to continue seeking other funding streams." But by that point, the damage had been done. Speaking via Twitter, President Trump said, “California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” adding, “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now. Whole project is a ‘green’ disaster!" It only gets worse from there. The Los Angeles Times reported that an additional $2.5 billion in additional federal grant funding has been thrown into question as Trump Administration officials are “actively exploring every legal option” for taking the money back in light of slow progress as well as the governor’s statements. The funds are currently being put to use building the 119-mile route that Newsom has pledged to finish. The Times reported further that Ronald Batory, the chief of the Federal Railroad Administration who issued the grants to California in 2009 and 2010, penned a legal analysis of the situation to California High-Speed Rail Authority chief executive Brian Kelly stating that California “has materially failed to comply with the terms of the [grant] agreement and has failed to make reasonable progress on the project.” Batory further alleged that California had failed to deliver $100 million in matching funds for the project that were due in late 2018. Batory’s missive also referenced Newsom’s speech directly, saying that the governor has instigated a “significant retreat from the state’s initial vision and commitment.” Experts disagree whether the federal government can legally take back money that has already been allocated or spent, but that has not stopped President Trump from continuing his attacks on the state’s rail plan this week. Either way, the long-held and hard-fought vision of California high-speed rail has been thrown into doubt. The uncertain news has reverberated across the state, including in San Francisco, where the structurally damaged Salesforce Transit Center sits vacant, with an entire subterranean level laying in wait for a high-speed rail line that now might never come.
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Playing Gate Keeper

Is the Trump administration holding the Gateway tunnel hostage for political reasons?
It’s no secret that the Trump administration has been much more hostile to the Amtrak Gateway Project than its predecessor. President Obama's team had hashed out a 50/50 funding agreement between the federal government and New York and New Jersey officials to replace the aging tunnel under the Hudson River, but the Trump administration quickly moved to quash the deal last year. According to NBC New York, the nonprofit National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is now suing the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) over concerns that the administration has unduly canceled the project. A federal Environmental Impact Statement for the project was supposed to have been completed by March 30, 2018, but the DOT has failed to produce any materials or answer the Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) filed by the NRDC in September. The suit alleges that progress on the Gateway tunnel is being stymied so that the administration might use it as a bargaining chip to help grease construction of a U.S.-Mexico border wall. The 108-year-old, two-track rail tube that runs between New Jersey and New York services approximately 200,000 Amtrak passengers daily but was severely damaged by saltwater during Hurricane Sandy in 2012. With the looming possibility that one of the tunnels would fail (which Amtrak expects would reduce traffic by up to 75 percent), both New York and New Jersey had upped their commitments to the project to $5 billion out of the required $12.7 billion. The Obama administration’s pledge to fund half of the project would have largely been doled out in loans to the two states, a common method of funding infrastructure.

The alleged quashing of the environmental review isn’t the first time the current administration has been accused of playing hardball with the project to achieve its political aims. In March of last year, President Trump was reportedly meeting with congressional Republicans to kill the project in retaliation against Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Democratic leaders in the affected states. The NRDC suit alleges that USDOT has been intentionally delaying any progress on the project and has gone so far to refer to the project under the codename “mushroom” to thwart FOIA requests. USDOT has denied impeding the Gateway Project for political reasons or using a code word to obfuscate its documentation and has chalked up the delay to what it calls an untenable funding model. The agency also issued the following statement: “It is false to say that DOT is blocking the Hudson Tunnels project, when in fact the project as it stands is actually ineligible to proceed.” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had scheduled a sit down with president Trump at the White House over the state of the project in November of last year, as well as several high-profile, live-streamed tours of the crumbling tunnels. It appears that, for the time being, those overtures were for naught. Lending fuel to the NRDC's allegations is the recent decision by the Trump administration to demand the return of $2.5 billion in transportation grants given to California for their high-speed rail project, along with the possible cancelation of another $968 million grant. California's Governor Gavin Newsom has argued that the move is purely political and a result of the state's decision to sue the administration over its recent state of emergency declaration.
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Staying Alive

Brooklyn-Queens streetcar rolls into environmental review
New York’s Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) is still alive and inching toward realization. Today the de Blasio administration awarded a $7.25 million contract to national land-use and transportation planning consultants VHB to oversee the waterfront streetcar project’s Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Questions over the $2.7 billion streetcar route’s feasibility have plagued the light rail project since the beginning. Officials still haven't released the exact route or said how the city would recoup the money needed for construction. Last August, Mayor de Blasio admitted that at least $1 billion would be needed from the federal government and that using the “value-capture” model (collecting increased tax revenue as the BQX boosted property values along its route) wasn’t wholly feasible. The route was shortened to 26 stops along 11 miles, from Astoria in Queens to Gowanus in Brooklyn, cutting out Sunset Park farther south, and the opening date got pushed back from 2024 to 2029. All had gone quiet since then, but speculation flared that Amazon could potentially chip in for the system after the tech giant announced that it would be building a second headquarters in Long Island City. That seems to have been confirmed by Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen, who pointed to the boom in investment along the Queens-Brooklyn waterfront as proof that new modes of public transport across the two boroughs were needed. The city expects that the BQX will accommodate 50,000 daily riders when it first opens and 60,000-to-90,000 riders by 2050. ”For some reason, everybody thinks we are not serious but we have always been serious,” Glen told the Wall Street Journal. “The mayor wouldn’t have re-endorsed and announced we were moving forward if we weren’t moving forward.” The nonprofit group Friends of the Brooklyn-Queens Connector lauded the contract award as well, calling it a clear commitment on the part of the de Blasio administration to moving the project through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). With the EIS on track for completion in 2020, the BQX project will move to the next stage of the ULURP by the end of 2021. The city hopes that the project will begin construction by 2024.
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Gondola With The Wind

BIG proposes gondola to connect Oakland A's stadium to public transit
Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) has unveiled renderings for a proposed gondola line that could link downtown Oakland, California, with the firm’s proposed baseball stadium development for the Oakland Athletics on Howard Terminal. The proposed gondola line would bridge a 1.3-mile gap in transit access between the Bay Area Regional Transit (BART) system that stops in downtown Oakland and Jack London Square, a site adjacent to the new development. The link is projected to serve up to 6,000 individuals per hour and will take roughly three minutes to make the trip. The proposal has come to light as the A's and BIG work to assuage local stadium-related concerns, which include lack of transit access to the site and preservation issues for the existing Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, which will be effectively torn down for the project. The new renderings show a conventional gondola system running above the streets of Downtown Oakland. The elevated line will ferry passengers above the street and between the buildings that line the route while picking up and dropping off at raised stations with curved metal and wood walls. Gondolas are having a bit of a moment in American transit planning circles, as two efforts are lifting off in Los Angeles and in other cities. In L.A., a recent proposal to build a gondola line linking the city’s Union Station with Dodger Stadium has gained momentum. A second proposal to build a gondola line to connect various parts of the city to the Hollywood Sign has also gained notoriety as local officials move to accommodate a recent uptick in foot traffic to the remote mountainside sign. Plans for the Oakland gondola are being developed in tandem with the stadium proposal, which calls for new residential, commercial, and cultural programs around the baseball stadium. If all goes according to plan, the new stadium and gondola line could be up and running as soon as 2023.
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There's Norway Out

Norway's E39 superhighway will connect its coast and break a few records
A $47 billion proposal to link together Norway’s wild western coastline is the nation’s largest and toughest infrastructure project yet, according to NPR. The project's new highway would connect Oslo in the southeast to the coastal cities of Bergen, Stavanger, Alesund, and Trondheim, replacing numerous ferries with tunnels and bridges. But because of challenging geography, architects and civil engineers have been forced to develop new and inventive ideas to complete the route. After decades of building roads all over the country, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) understands the nation's waterways, full of endless mazes of fjords and lakes, were not designed to be conquered by the automobile. And with its freezing weather and rugged mountain soil, only a select especially acclimated number of people inhabit this area of Scandinavia—a number that decreases yearly. Most attribute depopulation in these areas to a lack of accessibility. All local road transportation relies on small highways that crisscross the region’s valleys, and the only way to navigate past most waterways is by ferry, which can take upwards of 45 minutes each; in some areas, driving to the neighboring city can require three ferry trips. Mayor Martin Kleppe of Tysnes, a region of rural municipalities located on an archipelago off the coast, told NPR that, "The ferry is a beautiful trip, but it's more an obstacle than a good connection." Tysnes's population has decreased by 50 percent over the last century, a decline the project is meant to counter. But where there's a challenge, there's a solution. The renderings and video released by the NPRA for the project depict some grand ideas—suspension bridges, tunnels, underground junctions—to link all waterways, connect remote island towns, and drastically improve accessibility to the region from the rest of Scandinavia. If completed, the project would contain a number of record-breaking engineering marvels: the suspension bridge at Sognefjord, for example, would have 1,500-foot-high towers and its 12,100-foot-long span would dwarf even the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge and the Millau Viaduct. But it is not all figured out quite yet. The NPRA's greatest challenge is at the Sula fjord, the deepest and the widest of them all, and an important shipping route. To cross the 3 miles of water while leaving the 66-foot-high clearance for boats to pass, engineers stand with two likely proposals. The first is a rather awkward three-tower suspension bridge. The two exterior towers would be placed on land, the center tower being anchored to the seafloor.  The second proposal is the first of its kind in the world: a submerged tunnel tethered not to the seabed below, but above to floating pontoons. While many other underwater tunnels already connect vast waterways—those of Chesapeake Bay, from Copenhagen to Malmö, and Hong Kong to Macau, for instance—one that floats could open new doors in the civil engineering world. A project of this magnitude is going to not only make a massive mark on Norway’s majestic landscape and make life easier for its residents, but it will also open the area to the rest of the world. This endeavor may put the global spotlight on the far north.