Paulo Autran Tunnel: The first roadworks in Latin America with steel sheet piles

This tunnel construction was built as an access to an underground car park at the Congonhas International Airport in São Paulo, Brazil. The innovative feature of this project is the use of steel sheet piles as retaining tunnel walls that offered a number of advantages during construction work. The steel sheet piles were provided by ArcelorMittal.

Detailed information

In response to the growing passenger and air traffic at Congonhas International Airport in São Paulo, a reorganization of the airport's access and exit routes was carried out in order to optimize traffic flow and avoid congestions in the area.

In course of this project, an additional underground car park was built in the airport area close to the main artery of Washington Luis Avenue. Due to the heavy traffic on this avenue and in order to avoid an additional crossing with traffic lights, a tunnel was built under the busy road to provide access to the car park. The tunnel is 310 m long, of which 160 m are covered and 150 m uncovered. It offers two lanes for vehicles and an emergency lane for pedestrians.

The open trench excavation approach was used in the construction with pre-moulded concrete walls in the access and exit areas. The retaining walls are made of steel sheet pile walls on either side of the tunnel, with the overhead closure also made of pre-moulded concrete beams.

A pioneering project: Tunnel walls made of steel sheet piles

This was the first time that steel sheet piles were used in a roadworks project in Latin America. They were used for the containment and foundation of the tunnel and offered a number of advantages in the construction work. The retaining wall already acts directly as the lateral closure and therefore requires a smaller excavation area leading to less interference with the surroundings. The speedy installation limits the inconveniences caused by the interruption of local traffic. Sheet piles allow a clean construction site and keep the environmental impact to a minimum. Thanks to the easy installation, which does not require many workers and special machinery, steel sheet piles present an efficient solution for construction sites with difficult access and limited space. Furthermore, no additional finishing or maintenance is necessary after completion. The sheet piles received a coating of anti-graffiti polyurethane paint on the visible side.

Apart from their competitive cost and flexibility of use, the sheet pile solution used for the retaining walls of Paulo Autran Tunnel also offer a highly aesthetic quality.

ArcelorMittal supplied around 500 tonnes of 12 and 14 m long steel sheet piles (including finishing services like cutting and bending) and ribbed concrete reinforcing wire mesh.

The floor surface of the underground tunnel was made of continuously reinforced concrete paving using the bottom slabs directly as the traffic surface. All of the concrete was also treated and coated with an anti-graffiti varnish in order to increase its protection and durability.

Tunnel equipment

The tunnel is equipped with a lighting system, ventilation, fire-fighting equipment, and infrastructure for a closed circuit TV system. Other features include emergency systems with an independent generator and a no-break power supply system. The rain drainage system in the tunnel includes a tunnel liner system for draining water solely by means of gravity (no need for pumping).

Metallic pedestrian bridge

The project also included a metallic pedestrian bridge over the two lanes of Washington Luis Avenue in order to maintain the flow of pedestrians in the area.

The express access improved traffic fluidity in both the Centro-Bairro direction and the Bairro-Centro direction as the traffic lights could be removed. More than ten thousand vehicles travel on the avenue every hour, of which two thousand vehicles are headed for the airport.

Project Information

  • São Paulo
  • Brazil
  • Architect:
    Planservi Engenharia Ltda
  • January 2008
  • Client:
    SAO PARKING - Concessionaire of the Congonhas S/A car park, Municipal City Council of São Paulo and the Brazilian Airport Infrastructure Corporation, Infraero
  • Engineering Firm:
    Construções e Comercio Camargo Corrêa S/A
  • Contractor:
    Construções e Comercio Camargo Corrêa S/A
  • Photographer:
    Marcelo Scandaroli/ArcelorMittal