Sofia, October 22, 2015/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Clive Leviev-Sawyer of The Sofia Globe
A number of Bulgarian officials, including President Rossen Plevneliev and Transport Minister Ivailo Moskovski attended on October 22 the official ceremony inaugurating a new stretch of the motorway linking Bulgarian capital Sofia to Koulata on the Greek-Bulgarian border.
The 37km section of motorway between the towns of Doupnitsa and Blagoevgrad in south-western Bulgaria cost 358 million leva, or about 183 million euro, to build. The bulk of the money came under EU’s operational programme for transport.
With this new stretch in operation, the Strouma motorway is now at the half-way stage, with 69km done and 67km yet to be built, but it is not expected to be in full operation for some time.
The difficult terrain in Kresna gorge drives up the cost of construction and Bulgaria intentionally postponed the work for the 2015-2020 EU budget period. Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova said on October 22 that with EU funding now secure, the Strouma motorway was due to be completed by 2022.
She said that she was hopeful that a contractor for the Kresna gorge stretch would be picked in 2016 and that whoever is picked would begin construction work the same year.
Also on October 22, Plevneliev and Prime Minister Boiko Borissov attended the opening of a 5.5km stretch of the Sofia ring-road, a part of the road infrastructure linking the Lyulin and Maritsa motorways, which is meant to improve road connections between Turkey and Central Europe.
(Bulgarian PM Boiko Borissov, second-right, and President Rossen Plevneliev, third-right, at the ribbon-cutting ceremony on the Sofia ring-road on October 22. Photo: Road Infrastructure Agency.)