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Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

Posted January 18, 2017 1:36 PM by HUSH
Pathfinder Tags: alaska Bering bridge Russia tunnel

The most widely-accepted explanation for the settlement of the Americas by indigenous peoples is that, between 16,500 and 11,000 years ago, several thousand ‘paleoamericans’ crossed a grassland steppe that today is Far East Russia, the floor of the Bering Sea, and Alaska. During the Late Glacial period, this area wasn’t frozen over and sea levels were low enough that not only were people able to cross between Asia and North America, but civilizations thrived here. Even though it is a hypothesis, it is the most widely-regarded explanation of how native populations dispersed into the Americas.

In a twist of irony, the area of Earth that made humans a multi-hemisphere species is now the boundary between bitter rivals: the United States and Russian Federation. At just 55 miles apart, Uelen village of the Autonomous Okrug territory and Tin City Air Force Base in Alaska could be connected by a modern bridge or tunnel. The result would be being able to drive from New York City to London, a trip of 13,000 miles, in about 10 days or so.

It seems like a given that any transportation link between the two countries would cross the Diomede Islands, two islands lying in the middle of the Bearing Strait, with the U.S. claiming the smaller, eastern one, and Russia claiming the western, larger island. With shallow seas and moderate tides and currents, a bridge is technically feasible. (You can illegally walk between the islands in winter.)

Yet the climate is the largest challenge. Construction would occur less than six months at a time, and exposed steelwork would have to be minimized to reduce maintenance work. A plan submitted by noted civil engineer T.Y. Lin in the 1980s for the International Peace Bridge called for almost all steel bridge components, including cables, to be encased in concrete. If the bridge were to be built, it would need a lot of extra lighting, as it would be completely in the dark for parts of the year. Bridge maintenance, especially snow and ice removal, would be considerably expensive.

While a tunnel would be more expensive to build initially, it might be cheaper in the long run due to lesser maintenance expenses. Again the tunnel would follow the path of the Diomede Islands, with the islands serving as ventilation shafts and tunnel support centers (and possibly a hotel, per Interbering). Even though such an excavation would rival the largest infrastructure projects in history, there is no standing evidence that such a tunnel is impossible. Additionally, a tunnel could have more space for pipelines and railways, adding to the project’s profitability.

Of course, the main barrier for such a bridge or tunnel isn’t engineering or even financial, despite a reputed $66 to $100 billion to provide such a link (plus the road and rail connections on both sides). Instead, there is little political willpower in the United States for a project that won’t reward politicians or the populace, but rather rich companies. These are the exact motivations for more recent bids by Russian and Chinese companies to provide pipeline and rail links for the energy industries. Adrian Shirk, writing for The Atlantic, believes perhaps the U.S. should try to build the bridge for the sake of ambition, similar to how the moon landing offered no payoff other than the feeling of accomplishment.

My guess is that we’ll only provide a physical link between the United States and Russia once the figurative boundaries erode. I don’t think it will happen in my lifetime.

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#1

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/18/2017 1:45 PM

Seems to me that money would be better spent here:

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/18/2017 7:58 PM

Our infrastructure has been crumbling for decades because politicians won't support projects to rebuild it because there's no political advantage $ for them.

Flint, just one example, should never have happened.

I can see the political climate thawing soon and the possibility of a bridge may become more favorable. Just think of the strategic implications if Putin decides to invade us.

We just don't need the oil or much else that would cross on a bridge as opposed to the shipping lanes already there.

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#3

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/18/2017 9:22 PM

You could drive all the way to London..... blimey...

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/19/2017 3:43 AM

...using a rail transit vehicle to carry road vehicles beneath the Channel, of course.

Any tunnel under the Bering straits would merely be twice the length of the above.

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#5
In reply to #3

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/19/2017 5:26 AM

...once the tiny little matter of track gauge is sorted out, of course.

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#8
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Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/19/2017 10:43 AM

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#15
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Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/24/2017 9:01 AM

...which is fine for short distances where space is tight, as in the photo, and represents an over-investment when it comes to longer ones. High-speed routes in the Iberian Peninsula, for example, are built to the Stephensons' Gauge for compatibility beyond the peninsula, and not the Iberian Gauge, which only applies upon it. Russia's gauge differs again from these two.

In the photo, it is arguable that three rails would be a satisfactory solution, with one rail being shared between the gauges.

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#16
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Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/24/2017 10:17 AM

"Get to tha choppa"!

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#6

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/19/2017 8:40 AM

That part of the world is an active seismic area, something they might want to consider before constructing a long bridge or tunnel.

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#7
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Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/19/2017 10:23 AM

Experience in other seismic zones, such as Japan, will prove invaluable.

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#9

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/19/2017 4:46 PM

This is a really bad idea.

Seismic nightmare.

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#10

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/21/2017 12:39 AM

Why a bridge or a tunnel? Why not a tube cabled to the bottom? Perhaps use hydrokinetic power to power a buoyancy control system?

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#12
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Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/22/2017 2:54 AM

Hey it's your drowning fantasy, have it ever which way you want, but don't expect government funding for it.

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#11

Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/21/2017 1:01 PM

It will never be built in our lifetimes. Besides, the Bering Straight has some of the highest seismic activity and worse weather in the world.

Even if it was built, should Russia decide to invade Alaska, U.S. Army Combat Engineers would have to blow the tunnel or bridge. I'll volunteer!

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#13
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Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/23/2017 11:54 AM

The Chunnel between England and France was debated for a hundred years before finally being built. One of the arguments against for both countries would be the potential for invasion, so in early plans engineers made it possible to flood the chunnel from either side.

World War II taught them that they didn't need to worry about a invasion from tunnels.

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#14
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Re: Building a Bridge Over the Bering Sea

01/23/2017 12:19 PM

I would hate to be part of any invading force coming through a tunnel. It is a suicide mission, plain and simple.

It would be easier to land near cliffs and scale them. (has been done by Army Rangers).

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