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Public-images-osm logo.svg tunnel
A tunnel is an underground passage for a road or similar. Edit or translate this description.
Group: Placement
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasmay be used on relations
Documented values: 5
Useful combination
Status: de facto

tunnel=* is used for roads, railway line, canals, etc. that run in a tunnel.

For some grade separated crossings it may however be debatable if the lower way is in the tunnel or if the upper way is on a bridge=*. In general, if the lower way is long and surrounded by earth it is almost certainly a tunnel; and if the lower way is short and the upper way is supported on concrete, brick on metal pillars and beams then that is almost certainly a bridge. There are however situations where it is a matter of personal judgement, but it is preferred to either tag the lower way as tunnel or the upper way as a bridge but not both.

For covered passages which are open on one side, often ways underneath a building, use covered=* in place of tunnel=*. One exception are landslide/avalanche protectors on mountain roads which are tagged as tunnel=avalanche_protector.

Where the water from a smaller stream, drain or even cattle crossing passes under a way structure or a building consider using tunnel=culvert in place of the tunnel=yes used for accessible and larger tunnels for roads or railways.

When the waterway=* runs underground for a considerable distance, you can use tunnel=flooded especially when the duct isn't designed to be safely accessible in operation or man_made=pipeline for sections built with tube assemblies.

Power cables (power=cable) or pipelines (man_made=pipeline) buried underground should not be tagged as tunnels. The location of a buried cable may optionally be tagged as location=underground or location=underwater.

However, if the cable or pipeline is located inside a self-supporting tunnel it may be tagged as tunnel=yes. Such dedicated utilities tunnels are sometimes found in large cities.

How to map

Showing a tunnel that continues to the junction on the left (wrong) and that is terminated before the junction on the right (correct).
  • Split the way in question at the points were the tunnel starts and ends and add the tunnel tag. It is best to avoid having a tunnel continue to a junction that is not in a tunnel by splitting the way prior to the junction.
  • Most tunnels should be tagged with layer=-1 or another suitable negative value (exception: tunnel=building_passage). For metros/subways or other very long ways it is often convenient to use layer=-2 to accommodate underground passages for pedestrians between the tunnel and the surface.
  • Where the approach to the tunnel is in a cutting this can be identified with cutting=yes. Note that a layer=* tag is not desired on a cutting or embankment unless there are several layers of objects that need to be differentiated.

tunnel=building_passage should not normally have a layer assigned as there is no clear above/below relation to the building but a layer may be required when there are several layers of building passages.

It may also be useful to add maxheight=* and maxwidth=* if there are publicised restrictions and use access=* if there restrictions on use by certain classes of vehicle or user.

If the tunnel has a name this can be specified using tunnel:name=* (14,060 uses by 1197 editors at 2021-02-28) although it should be clear that this is still an indirect way of mapping "a tunnel" (it is a property of the feature which is in the tunnel and refers to a tunnel which may be mapped as a distinct object as well). There is still some debate on the best method to map the name of tunnels and how to represent the tunnel as its own object.

lit=* can be included to provide information about any lighting in the tunnel (or not).


The following values are now considered in OpenStreetMap according to classification upside:

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Additionally, the following values are in use with waterways:

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tunnel=yes, tunnel=building_passage, and covered=yes are rendered by the default OpenStreetMap styling.

See also