Armenian officials inaugurated on Tuesday two roads southeast and northwest of Yerevan that have been rebuilt as part of an ambitious project to upgrade Armenia’s main highways stretching more than 550 kilometers to Georgia and Iran.
The North-South transport project worth an estimated $1.5 billion is aimed at facilitating the landlocked country’s access to the Georgian and Iranian ports. It is also designed to enable Iran to use Armenian and Georgian territory for large-scale freight shipments to and from Europe.
In 2009, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) lent the Armenian government $500 million for the planned road upgrades. But it was not until 2012 that a Spanish construction firm contracted by the government began expanding and repaving the two highways connecting Yerevan to the towns of Ararat and Ashtarak.
The total length of those highways is about 50 kilometers. Their reconstruction cost $70 million.
Work on about 120 kilometers of other roads running further southeast and northwest of the Armenian capital is due to be finished in 2018. It too is being mainly financed from the EDB loan.
Earlier this year the government borrowed $150 million from the Kazakhstan-based Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) to rebuild a 20-kilometer road currently going through Armenia’s highest mountain pass close to the Iranian border. Most of that money is due to be spent on the construction of a 4-kilometer tunnel.
The tortuous Kajaran pass is situated over 3,000 meters above the sea level and is frequently closed to traffic in winter months because of snowstorms and ice.
The government has yet to secure funding for upgrading and shortening the remaining strategic highways. Accordingly, it has set no dates for the completion of the entire North-South project.