The government hopes to launch this spring the delayed expansion of Armenia’s main highways which is aimed at enhancing transport connections with neighboring Georgia and Iran, Transport and Communications Minister Manuk Vartanian said on Wednesday.
The so-called North-South Project, estimated to cost around $1 billion, covers hundreds of kilometers of roads stretching from the Armenian-Iranian border to one of the three Armenian-Georgian border crossings.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) agreed in 2009 to finance it with a $500 million loan. The Manila-based bank said the rest of the sum will be raised by the Armenian government and “other development partners.”
Work on the project was initially due to start in 2010. But it was delayed after the government said it failed to find foreign contractors offering reasonable prices. Vartanian said it will call another international tender in 2011.
The minister announced on Wednesday that the repeat tender has already taken place and that the government expects the ADB to approve its winner chosen by Yerevan soon. He declined to name the foreign bidder.
“We plan to start the construction in April,” Vartanian told a news conference. He said the upgrades will begin at two highways running south and north of Yerevan.
Vartanian also said the government expects to “completely solve the issue of funding” for the project. But he did not specify any funding sources except the ADB and the precise cost of the road expansion.
The ADB also approved in 2009 another $500 million loan for road construction in southern Georgia and the Black Sea region of Ajara in particular. The new highways currently constructed in that area will substantially shorten travel between Armenia and the Georgian Black Sea coast.
Armenian officials have said that another aim of the infrastructure projects is to make it much easier for neighboring Iran to use Armenian and Georgian territory for freight shipments to and from Europe.