Chinese construction giant China Civil Engineering Construction Corp. has won its second major tunneling project in Israel, teaming with an Israeli firm on a $170-million design-build rail-line tunnel contract. The team beat several other joint ventures of overseas firms and Israeli partners.

CCECC and Danya Cebus Ltd., Tel Aviv, are digging two parallel, 4.85-kilometer-long tunnels underneath Mount Gilon for the 23-km line that will connect the cities of Carmiel and Acre in northern Israel. The estimated $800-million project is set for completion by the end of 2014, with operation expected a year later. The project includes two new train stations, construction of bridges over two streams and elevation of an existing highway for 1.2 km over the planned train tracks.

The team beat out a joint venture of Germany's Max Bogl Group and Israel's Hofrei HaSharon; a team of Moscow-based Mosmetrostroy and Israel's Roltsur Tunnels; and a team of Italy's Impresa Pizzarotti & C. S.p.A linked with Shafir Civil and Marine Engineering, Petah Tikvah.

"The tunneling part of the project is by far the most complex and includes the two main tunnels along with 18 smaller escape tunnels at a distance of 250 meters from each other," says Shai Baras, CEO of the state-owned Israel National Roads Co. (formerly the Public Works Dept). The Israeli government transferred responsibility for two major rail projects to the company, which issued the tunneling tender. The second project involves a 60-km rail line between Haifa and Bet Shean in the southeastern Galilee region.

CCECC was the tunneling subcontractor for the $300-million Carmel tunnels project in Haifa, responsible for the boring of two sets of twin tunnels, one that was 3.5 km long and the other 1.6 km.

Currently, Israel is making massive investments in its rail network as part of a government effort to link all parts of the country. Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz says the Carmiel-Acre line eventually will be extended north to Kiryat Shemona, although that segment has yet to receive government approval.