The work on the double tube 8.5-km-long Banihal-Qazigund tunnel along the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar national highway is nearing completion and is likely to open for traffic in March.
The work on the Rs 2100-crore project started in June 2011 by Navyuga engineering company and on completion would reduce the road distance between Banihal in Jammu province and Qazigund in south Kashmir by 16 km, from the present 35 km, and will bypass Jawahar Tunnel and Shaitan Nalla, which is prone to heavy snowfall and slippery conditions during winters.
"The work within and outside is in the final stage and we are hopeful to throw it open for traffic in the last week of March," Chief Manager, Navayuga Engineering Company, Muneeb Tak told PTI.
The existing road tunnel below the Banihal pass (Jawahar tunnel -- the gateway to Kashmir) has been a bottleneck on the nearly 265-km highway, the only all weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, due to its elevation of 2,194 m (7,198 ft) and limited traffic capacity.
The new tunnel's average elevation at 1,790 m (5,870 ft) is 400 m lower than the existing Jawahar tunnel''s elevation, which would make it less prone to avalanches and fulfills the dream of expressway between Srinagar and Banihal.
Mr Tak said the tunnel is a masterpiece of engineering and has been constructed from Austrian tunneling method (ATM).
"The tunnel has been built on the Build Operate and Transfer Base System with a state of the art exhaust system to remove gas and bring in fresh air."
He said 126 jet fans, 234 CCTV modern cameras and a firefighting system are being installed in both tubes of the tunnel for which the work is underway.
"A corridor between two tubes after every 500 meters inside the tunnel has been built and this can be used in case of any emergency in either tube," Mr Tak said.