The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved USD 415 million to build a new highway as part of a wider government program aimed “to improve the country’s transport network and enhance Georgia as a regional trade and tourism hub.”
“The Kvesheti–Kobi Road Project is the first in a series of upgrades planned for the North–South Corridor, which is a vital transit route for Georgia, Armenia, and regional trading partners,” according to ADB. The corridor “also intersects with the East–West Highway” to the north of the capital Tbilisi “providing access to the shortest link connecting Central Asia with Europe and East Asia.”
The Kvesheti-Kobi section belongs to the historic Georgia’s Military Road connecting the nation’s capital city Tbilisi to Vladikavkaz, the capital of Russia’s North Ossetia. The so called North-South Road Corridor serves as the only land connection between Georgia and Russia, as three other roads connecting Georgia to Russia with the crossing points over Psou river (in Abkhazia), Mamisoni Pass and Roki Tunnel (in Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia) fall under Russian occupation .
“Currently, the 3,500 vehicles that use the existing 35-km road each day face high accident risks as well as road closures of more than 40 days a year, mostly in winter,” ADB explained. The 23-kilometer bypass will be built between the villages of Kvesheti and Kobi, passing through the Caucasus Mountains in the country’s northeast.
According to ADB, “it will provide a safer and faster travel alternative for residents, tourists, and freights trucks who face worsening delays on the current road, especially on the Jvari Pass section, which is highly exposed to avalanches in winter.”
“To overcome difficult terrain challenges in the Caucasus Mountains,” it will require 5 tunnels at a total length of 11 km and 6 bridges at a total length of 1.6 km. The road construction is expected to begin in 2020.
Georgian Prime Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said at a news briefing on August 2 that “this is a unique project not only for our region, but the rest of the world,” and that this is not “only an infrastructural project.” “Through implementation of projects of such scale and importance we can reduce poverty and overcome this most painful challenge for our citizens,” the PM stated.