The “Friendship Bridge” is to be built over the Debed river flowing through the main border crossing at Bagratashen-Sadakhlo. It currently has a single narrow bridge constructed in Soviet times.
The Armenian and Georgian governments signed a deal on the new bridge in late 2014 two years after the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) pledged to finance the project with a loan extended to Armenia.
Work on the bridge was originally due to start in 2017 and last for two years. However, the Armenian government completed an international tender for the right to build the bridge only in 2018. An Iranian construction firm, Ariana Tunnel Dam, won the tender with a $9 million bid.
The Armenian Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructures announced the impending start of the construction on Friday after a virtual meeting of a Georgian-Armenian task force dealing with the project.
A ministry statement said the working group gave final approval to the architectural design of the planned bridge which is due to be 386 meters long and have two sections with a total of four traffic lanes. It also approved a “simplified procedure” for construction workers’ access to the border area.
The new bridge will be used for Armenia’s trade with not only Georgia but also Russia, its number one trading partner. Much of Russian-Armenian trade, worth almost $2.2 billion in 2020, is carried out by heavy trucks passing through the Bagratashen-Sadakhlo crossing.
Armenian passport control and customs facilities at Bagratashen were expanded and modernized in 2016 as part of a $65 million program mostly financed by the European Union.
The session of the Georgian-Armenian task force coincided with President Armen Sarkissian’s official visit to Tbilisi. Meeting with Georgian parliament speaker Archil Talakvadze, Sarkissian said the two neighboring states should “encourage the implementation of joint projects” now that their economies are reeling from recessions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.