Developments in Trench-Type Tunnel Construction

by Wayne F. Palmer, (F.ASCE), Consultant; Palmer and Baker, Engrs. Inc., Mobile, Ala.,
Kenneth C. Roberts, (F.ASCE), Consultant; Palmer and Baker Engrs., Inc. Mobile, Ala.,

Serial Information: Journal of the Construction Division, 1975, Vol. 101, Issue 1, Pg. 37-49

Document Type: Journal Paper


The basic concept of the subaqueous trench-type tunnel dates back to antiquity. It is known that a tunnel of this type was constructed in Babylon in 2180-2160 B.C. The modern revival of this old idea dates from before 1854. A review is presented of the various methods of construction proposed in the years following, culminating in the construction of the first true trench-type tunnel, the Detroit River Tunnel of the Michigan Central Railroad (1906-1910). Construction of this tunnel and other early tunnels, i.e., the Posey Tube, Alameda (1926-1928); the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel (1928-1930), the Bankhead Tunnel, Mobile, Ala. (1939-1940); the Maas River Tunnel (1938-1941) is described in general terms. The inherent advantages of trench-type tunnels were demonstrated in these early works and led to the widespread use of this type in the ensuing years.

Subject Headings: Construction methods | Tunnels | Construction management | Rail transportation | River bank stabilization | Michigan | United States | Detroit

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