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Installing Utilities Piping in Tunnels: 4 Things to Consider

Posted by Edward Dill on May 21, 2018 9:02:00 AM

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For bridge piping experts, tunnels present a unique set of challenges. The working conditions inside tunnels can be quite cramped, and many tunnels in the U.S. are ageing in place rapidly along with their existing utilities.

It’s not uncommon for tunnels’ utility piping to be completely replaced after decades of use, or for utilities to just now be installed inside tunnels for the first time. As advanced telecommunications become more widespread, some tunnels now act as support structures for important utilities such as carbon fiber cabling.

When installing utilities piping in tunnels, which considerations are the most important?

  1. Materials Selection

    The environment inside a tunnel is inherently different from the environment outside of it. Tunnels tend to build up significantly more moisture, so humidity is always a concern. Tunnels are naturally protected from elemental factors like wind and hail, however. Tunnel piping materials are generally selected for their anti-corrosive properties. While always designed for durability, in-tunnel pipeline projects do not require the same heavy-duty materials that might be needed on a bridge spanning choppy salt water, for example.

  2. Access to Piping

    One of the most difficult elements of working inside tunnels is access. Most tunnel utilities run along the ceiling of the tunnel in order to give technicians the most room to work below. Access (or lack thereof) must be considered thoroughly when a new pipeline design is imagined. It’s important to consider not only how easily the pipeline can be installed, but also how accessible it will be when maintenance is needed in the future. Selecting materials and/or design that can be attended to without the help of unavoidably-tall equipment is key.

  3. Budget Constraints

    Budget is always a factor when it comes to bridge piping, and tunnel work is no different. The materials selected for the project will likely be based in large part on the budget for the project. The complexity of the project - and resulting timeline thereof – play a considerable role in whether or not a budget is met. Intangible factors like working conditions and traffic shutdowns must also be considered.

  4. Traffic Patterns

    Tunnels are enclosed spaces. Utility installers must plan for the worst. It’s important to design tunnel pipelines to be as out-of-the-way as possible to account for oversized vehicles or vehicles with unusually tall apparatuses (like bucket trucks). Design must assume that eventually, someone will drive a too-tall vehicle through the tunnel. Pipelines should be well-secured inside the structure to avoid catastrophic disaster in the event of an accident.


Tunnel utilities installation project? Go Aptus. We’re the leader in bridge attached pipelines; we’ve worked on thousands of bridges and tunnels in dozens of states.

Reach out to the Aptus team today to talk about the specifics of your project and learn how we can improve your process. 

 

Topics: Piping, Utility Pipelines, Tunnels