This is The Longest Road Tunnel in the World

If you hold your breath in this tunnel, you might pass out

Lærdal Tunnel
Svein-Magne Tunli

I was a huge Tiny Toon Adventures fan back in the early 90s. One episode I remember vividly entailed Hampton Pig's family going on a trip to Happy World Land—in this case, as is usually true in travel, the journey was more important than the destination.

Specifically, the fact that Hampton's father wanted to save on air conditioning while driving through the scorching desert, a circumstance made even more agonizing when the family decided to follow superstition by holding their breath through an impossibly long tunnel.

Now, I bring this up not because I'm ever conscious of saving energy (bad, I know) not because I have a particular fear of tunnels, but because I've always remembered this particular episode (and this particular part of it) when I'm going through a tunnel, to remind myself that not matter how bored I find myself, I could always been trapped in a tunnel for longer.

I have never, as of yet, traveled through Norway's Lærdal Tunnel, currently the world's longest road tunnel.

If I do, I certainly won't be holding my breath, superstition or not. I hope, if you value your life, that you don't either. Below, I'll explain the specifics as to why this is.

How Long is Lærdal Tunnel?

At 24 kilometers or just over 15 miles in length, Norway's Lærdal Tunnel is the longest tunnel in the world. Assuming no traffic, it takes about 18 minutes to drive through the tunnel if you're going the speed limit of 80 km/hr.

History of the Lærdal Tunnel

Construction on Lærdal Tunnel began in 1995, as a response to the difficult of traveling between Norway's two largest cities—Oslo and Bergen—particularly during winter, which requires treacherous driving over the icy mountains under which the tunnel is built, or during summer, during which ferries through the country's various fjords and lakes were necessary to bridge many parts of the distance.

The tunnel opened in 2000, after five years of construction and the excavation of 3 million cubic yards of rock. The total cost of the tunnel, which now serves more than 1,000 cars per day, was around 1.1 billion Norewgian krone (~$113 million U.S.), which the government interestingly does not currently attempt to offset with tolls.

How to Travel Through the Lærdal Tunnel

If you take a road trip through Norway, you will almost certainly need to travel between Oslo and Bergen (or vice-versa), and your routing will almost certainly take you along the E16, the road whose passage necessitated the building of the Lærdal Tunnel. If you're afraid (not sure how you even made it this far, to be honest), there are a few points of interest that should make you feel better.

The tunnel is extremely safe. First of all, the darkness inside the tunnel cave is broken not just by any light, but by colorful, fluorescent lights that make them look almost beautiful, not unlike the Salt Cathedral in Colombia.

Secondly, emergency exists have been installed every 1,600 feet or so, and numerous speed cameras make sure no driver endangers the safety of others. There are even "rumble strips" take make awful noises when you begin to veer, preventing you from falling asleep as you drive, God forbid.

Future Tunnels Longer Than Lærdal Tunnel

Although Lærdal Tunnel is currently the world's longest road tunnel, it's not the longest tunnel overall. The top six on the list are all water aqueducts (the longest being the 85-mile Delaware Aqueduct in New York State), while dozens of subway tunnels all around the world are longer than the Lærdal Tunnel.

Although Lærdal might remain the longest exclusively road-use tunnel for some time to come, its overall length with soon be eclipsed, right in Europe. The Gotthard Base Tunnel, whose road tunnel is much shorter than Lærdal's, will open later this year and be more than 57 kilometers (35 miles) long, longer than the currently rail tunnel record holder, which is Japan's Seikan Tunnel.