By Paul Ciocoiu for Southeast European Times in Bucharest – 31/05/07
Expanding and modernising its road infrastructure has become a top priority for Romania. Economic growth demands faster and easier cross-country transit. Moreover, as a new EU member, Romania needs better connections with state-of-the-art European highways.
Several major foreign investors have expressed interest in building Romania's new, modern road infrastructure. Among them are Lena from Portugal, Aktor from Greece, Vegyepszer from Hungary, and several consortiums.
Of the projects initiated by the government so far, one of the boldest is the Transylvanian Highway -- a four-lane, 415km long motorway stretching northwest from Brasov in central Romania to Oradea, on the border with Hungary. It is currently the largest highway project in Europe.
Upon completion, expected in 2013, the motorway will form an important section of the Romanian national highway system, providing a vital connection with the rest of the continent, and linking major European market centres with those in Central Asia.
Work on the Transylvanian motorway began in 2004, under a 2.2 billion-euro contract with the US-based firm Bechtel. The Romanian government provided around 184m euros in funding for this project this year.
Another project -- to build a highway linking Bucharest with the harbour city of Constanta on the Black Sea -- is continuing.
The first 18km of this highway, out of the planned 225km, were completed under former dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, in 1987. Some 173km of this highway, spanning the capital and the town of Cernavoda on the banks of the Danube, is already in use. The project should be completed by 2010.
Also under construction is the 1.6 billion-euro Bucharest-Brasov highway, initiated last year. It is a 73.3km, two-lane motorway that will link the capital to the western border by joining up with the Transylvanian Highway. The Bucharest-Brasov project will provide a long-awaited alternative to National Road 1, the most congested road in the country.
Future projects under consideration include a highway linking the western border checkpoint of Nadlac to Bucharest, via the city of Timisoara. There are also plans for a route linking the northern town of Suceava to the Ukrainian city of Cernauti, connecting the 4th and the 5th pan-European highways.