The bridges of Møre og Romsdal County

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Tourists come from across the globe just to drive it. Popularly, it has been dubbed “The Road to Nowhere”.

It is Norway’s Atlantic Ocean Road. Although just 8.3km long and taking seven minutes to drive, it is a civil engineering masterwork.

There had long been plans to connect a group of islands scattered along Norway’s Atlantic coast with the mainland. The idea for a rail line was abandoned in the early 20th Century in favour of a road. World War II then intervened and it was not until August 1983 that construction began.

The notion was to extend a section of County Road 64 so as to provide a physical connection between a number of sparsely inhabited islands and smaller, uninhabited islets that form an archipelago between Eide and Averøy in Møre og Romsdal, Norway.

The remoteness of the area meant a two-lane highway was all that was required, but despite its relatively short total distance, numerous causeways and eight bridges were needed to link all the islands and the mainland.

Those bridges range from 52m to 293m in length, and from 3m to 23m high. Each is a major engineering work.

The most prominent and spectacular is the Storseisundet Bridge. It is not your usual sort of State Highway 1 connector but a hair-raising switchback hung out over the sea.

Where the island of Averøy links with the mainland via the Romsdalshalvøya Peninsula, the road is fully exposed to the Norwegian Sea. During king tides and with just a little wind, the waves break across the roadway.

This was fully appreciated by the construction crews when 12 windstorms hit during their work. These are the strongest extratropical cyclones experienced in Europe.

The road was opened on July 7, 1989, and the total cost was 122 million Norwegian krone. Three quarters of this came from the public purse, with the remainder financed by tolls.

The public had grumbled loud and long about the tolls. The roadway was not expected to attract much traffic, and the tolls were regarded as a disincentive to using it.

However, the naysayers did not take into account the international petrol heads. The planners did though. They even built in four roadside viewpoints and rest areas along the route.

These, plus the spectacular nature of the journey, saw the bridge fully paid off in 10 years. It has been toll-free since mid-1999.

The road was awarded the title of Norwegian Construction of the Century, and is now a designated cultural heritage site. It is classified as a National Tourist Route, and has proved popular for filming car commercials.

Many would argue that in a good Atlantic storm it is the most dangerous road in the world to drive — which is, of course, what all tourists hope for.
Since 2009 it has been complemented with the opening of the Atlantic Ocean Tunnel from Averøy to Kristiansund. The two provide a single fixed link between Kristiansund and Molde.

Readers wondering if there’s a need to add the Road to Nowhere to their bucket list can check out the pics on www.dangerousroads.org/europe/norway/164-atlantic-ocean-road-norway.html, or take a spin on YouTube where there are many dashboard videos.

That switchback over the Storseisundet Bridge in a decent storm can set the heart racing. Or take it slow in snow: www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiziJyT_tNQ.