Recently I wrote a post about the idea of developing an intermodal freight bypass of the Chicago railway bottleneck by developing container ports on both the Michigan and Wisconsin sides of Lake Michigan. That post received a lot of commentary, both positive and negative. Since then, the notion of a trans-Lake Michigan railway tunnel has come to mind as an even more seamless way of bypassing the continuing railroad gridlock in and around Chicagoland.
Some may think this idea of a tunnel is wacky, far-fetched, or even stupid, but consider these facts:
- The twin-tube Chunnel between England and France is more than 31 miles long.
- The world’s longest single-tube underwater railway tunnel, Japan’s Seikan Tunnel under the Tsugaru Strait between Hokkaido and Honshu, is 33.5 miles long.
- The world’s longest rapid transit tunnel (Guangzhou Metro in China) extends 41.8 miles in length.
- The Delaware Aqueduct Tunnel in New York is just over 85 miles in length.
- As the map above shows, Lake Michigan is relatively shallow between Milwaukee and Muskegon.
Granted, a Lake Michigan tunnel crossing between Milwaukee and Muskegon would be 2.6 times longer than the length of the Seikan Tunnel (87 miles versus 33.5 miles), but as Daniel Burnham said, “make no little plans.” Well…a freight railway tunnel between Muskegon and Milwaukee is hardly a little plan. It also could potentially be as much as eight times faster than traversing Chicago by rail. Perhaps, just perhaps, as technologies advance and Chicago’s gridlock goes unabated, the idea of a trans-Lake Michigan Railway Tunnel will no longer be just one dreaming planner’s case of “tunnel vision.”