Mt. Blanc is the highest peak in the Alps. For us, its easiest to access via Chamonix, France. This adorable ski village is only an hour from Geneva and has a cable car you can take to reach the top.
However, this majestic mountain is not just a French treasure. Mt. Blanc straddles France and Italy, so it is shared. It is titled Monte Bianco in Italian. In fact, people can leave Chamonix, take a cable car, and ski down into Italy. We have some friends who skied this side, in Coumayeur, and loved it. I can’t imagine how much better skiing is if your mid-day break includes Italian food….a la dolce vita!
However, when it comes to every day life, usually you don’t want to climb Mt. Blanc but to simply get around it or through it by means of getting to nearby Italy. And so what did they do?
Build a tunnel.
It is amazing to think about the effort it takes to build a highway of this magnitude. France doesn’t let you forget it when you enter the autoroute. They remind you that they have spent millions of euros on the highway.
When you see the infrastructure required to build the roads, you don’t mind paying the few euro toll to drive on the side of the French Alps.
…that is just leading up to the tunnel, not the tunnel itself.
The tunnel itself takes about 17 minutes to get through, and costs about $60 USD additional than just the Autoroute Blanche. And what choice do you have if you want to get to Italy? The alternative is to take a 2-3 hour detour around the other side of Lake Geneva.
It was completed in 1965. It shut down for 3 years in 1999 due to a horrific accident, killing 39. They reopened in 2001 after making significant safety modifications.
And thus, they are serious. Here are the safety rules:
1- Maintain speed of 70 km/hour. If everyone isn’t maintaining speed consistently, they’ll come on the radio and warn everyone.
2- Yield control of your radio to them. Even if you have an iPod in, it redirects you to the radio station of the tunnel so they can communicate. They do so in French, Italian and English.
3- Stay 2 blue lights away from the person in front of you, to ensure there is significant stopping space. You can see the blue lights in the picture above.
We are thankful for the ability to use tunnels to make our trips shorter.
The Swiss Watch Blog – Gratitude Friday: Witnessing Something Truly Majestic
Schwingen in Switzerland – Mt. Blanc – the Tallest Mountain in the Alps
The Swiss Watch Blog – In Winter Wonder with Pascal and Giselle