Rio’s tunnels


According to the official list, there are 22 tunnels in the city of Rio de Janeiro. This is not surprising when one considers the Rio landscape of mountains, hills and rocks. Originally they had to be driven round or climbed over, so the tunnels reduced travel time enormously. For stories on Rio’s rocks, see the book by Marcelo Motta, published by Jakobsson Estúdio, called “Sobre Rochas” or in English “On the Rocks”, by clicking here.

Tunnels that are probably best known are those in the South Zone, such as the New Tunnel (Túnel Novo) linking Av.Princesa Isabel to Av. Lauro Sodré – inaugurated in 1904. The second oldest tunnel in Rio is the well-named Túnel Velho, or Old Tunnel, inaugurated in 1891, linking Rua Real Grandeza toRua Siqueira Campos – (Enlarged in 1925).

Tunel novo

The Lagoa-Barra route was much improved by tunnels and overpasses. One of the most controversial sections was the Acoustic Tunnel, which links Gavea to the Dois Irmãos tunnel, and was built really as a covering to the highway, to reduce the noise level, as it passes right behind PUC, the Catholic University, and permission was not granted until there was a guarantee of minimum noise. The Dois Irmãos tunnel then brings you into São Conrado, at the level of the Rocinha favela community. A series of tunnels then eventually leads to Barra da Tijuca.

lagoa barra

The longest tunnel in Rio, in fact the longest in Brazil, at 3,382 meters, crosses under Rio’s historic center and dock area, in the boroughs of Gamboa and Saúde, connecting Flamengo Park to Avenida Brasil and the Rio-Niteroi bridge. It is named after a past mayor/governor of Rio de Janeiro, Marcello Alencar, and is also called the Expressway Tunnel.  It substitutes the old Perimetral elevated highway, now demolished – see the posting in this blog.

substitui perimetral

One of the most popular tunnels is of course Tunel Rebouças, 2.8km long, in two sections, linking the Lagoa to Cosme Velho, and the second section ending in Rio Comprido, or the head of the Av Presidente Vargas and the beginning of Avenida Brasil. It links the North Zone to the South Zone, which originally was a long ride. The tunnel was opened in 1967, after five years in construction, and has had many improvements since, including ventilation.


For the longest tunnel in Brazil, see the article in the Rio Times