MONT BLANC TUNNEL

I am presently in Courmayeur, Italy. Yesterday, I decided to go to Chamonix, France. Mont Blanc was in the way.

No big deal. Around 1960, Italy and France built a tunnel under Mont Blanc connecting the two cities and two nations. Travelers were able to save 60-100 miles as a result.

The tunnel took eight years to construct.

It is a little over seven miles long. Only 28 feet wide. A few inches over fourteen feet high. Two lanes, one each way.

Additional lanes are needed. However construction costs are prohibitive and have prevented the construction.

There was a major fire in the tunnel in 1999. Thirty nine people killed. Amongst other things, the ventilation system did not work properly. Instead of sucking the toxic fire fumes out, it drove them back into the tunnel.

Everything purportedly fixed now and it is not supposed to happen again.

I went through the tunnel several times last year. I went through it twice yesterday. Once each way.

Traffic entering the tunnel from both sides is controlled. When the toll is paid, vehicles are not permitted to immediately take off. There is a time factor between each vehicle. About two minutes.

Cars are not permitted to piggy back or get close in any way. Each vehicle must remain at least 500 feet behind the one in front. All through the tunnel, there are blue blinking lights on each side measuring the 500 foot distance for drivers.

Speed is controlled. Fifty to 70 km per hour.

The traffic control is so efficient that when there is going to be a delay, blinking signs miles away announce the delay and how long. I got stuck in a 90 minute delay on the way back to Italy. The traffic was backed up on the French side 3 miles. When I say backed up, it means no movement. The motor is turned off and you sit for 10-20 minutes. Then on again to move forward a few car lengths.

It was not a bad situation. People get out of their cars and talk with each other. I enjoyed the company of my neighbors. Precisely 90 minutes after I entered the 3 mile span, I was in the tunnel.

The delay in itself was an experience. Expected and accepted. Nothing anyone could do about it anyhow.

Other than the tunnel delay, yesterday was basically unexciting. McDonalds was the big event for me. After McDonalds, my plans got screwed up. I intended to go up in a cable car or train over the top of Mont Blanc. A WOW I assumed. However, it started raining. Pouring. The end of trips up and down for the day. I was disappointed. The experience would have been unique.

I was back in my chalet early. Read. Not a bad situation. I was able to sit on the terrace. The one facing Mont Blanc. Each time I looked up, there was the glacier topped peak. A sight to behold.

To my friend Don, a message. If Don is still up north at his camp, someone please bring my message to his attention. The message: Don, I am out of cigarettes!

The honeymoon is over come this wednesday. I will be back in Key West wednesday evening.

Enjoy your day!

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