The impact of a tunnel on housing conditions and health may be positive for the residents who will no longer suffer from sound nuisances as they will disappear with the construction of the tunnel. It may sometimes be negative for people living near the portals of the tunnel (if the tunnel was badly designed) who will be subjected to increased sound nuisances or higher pollution levels. The installation of noise barriers could therefore be considered a measure for sustainable road tunnel operations.
In addition, we need to examine the impact that the road tunnel may have on the economic attractiveness of areas which previously had poor access conditions.
The points mentioned above on economic appraisal should also be viewed through the lens of social benefits or costs. For instance, by creating new links with a tunnel the journey time for someone commuting to work could be greatly improved and this would yield not just economic but social benefits – for instance with greater time with family and friends through a reduced commute time.
Other aspects for consideration for sustainable options could be feasibility for walking and cycle ways with measures such as dedicated cycle ways that could be used by pedestrians also being built into the design at the outset.
From a social point of view, the construction phase can have quite different effects: either positive or negative.
For inhabitants in the vicinity of the works site, it is clear that the works can pose a nuisance (traffic disruptions, noise, dust, etc.). Suitable measures must therefore be taken to reduce such forms of nuisance, so that residents are disrupted as little as possible.
On the positive side, it is during the construction phase that the impact on employment is the greatest. Tunnel construction requires considerable manpower over a long duration, especially if the size of the tunnel is substantial. This manpower is not necessarily local, but more often than not a considerable part of this manpower is hired near to the works site. Moreover, non-local manpower has an indirect impact on the local economy (hotels, restaurants, etc.).