By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The newly installed minister of Transport in the Romanian Government poured cold water on two widely expected highway projects but which the authorities have been dragging their feet over for years now, to the ire of transporters, exporters and citizens.
Speaking to Realitatea TV last night, Ioan Rus warned the Pitesti-Sibiu 116 km long highway, which connects the historical provinces of Wallachia and Transylvania across the Carpathians, will be a very expensive projects and it would take a lot of time to carry out.
The feasibility study will take one year and authorities will need an extra year for the technical project, Rus explained, arguing the Pitesti-Sibiu highway will be a “new Transfagarasan”, the 151 km cross-mountain road built by former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1974. But Rus highlighted the highway is part of the Transport Master Plan the government is going to present late August. The highway will “eventually” be built, but the costs may reach 30 million Euros per kilometer since the thoroughfare crosses a mountainous area, the minister warned.
The Pitesti-Sibiu highway project pitted PM Victor Ponta against President Traian Basescu early this year after the latter warned foreign investors may withdraw from Romania due to lack of transport infrastructure. Romanian car making company Dacia, based in Pitesti and bought by French car maker Renault, has been pressing the Romanian Government to finish the Pitesti-Sibiu highway, arguing the lack of modern infrastructure hinders exports and at the same time raises the price of cars due to expensive transportation.
Dacia said 350 trucks transporting cars leave for or come from the Western border each day and a highway would save about 30 Euros per each car transported. The US car maker Ford, which has production facilities in Craiova, is also putting pressure on the Romanian authorities to expand the highway infrastructure.
Rus has even mentioned a new road may be built along this major transport route before the highway is over so that trucks and cars roll separately.
For the third time over the past seven years, the national road agency launched last month a new public tender for the feasibility study which established the route, technical details and the final costs. In March, former Transport minister Dan Sova said the construction works at the Pitesti-Sibiu highway will start late 2015, with the costs assessed at about 3.2 billion Euros.
Another ditched project is the 53 km long Comarnic-Brasov highway, also crossing the mountains along a major touristic route in Romania, the Prahova Valley. Even though a group of companies has been selected to build the highway, the companies cannot find sources of financing. A decision will be made this fall, Rus said, underlining “we either move on with project or we ditch it for good”.
Romania inaugurated about 115 kilometers of highway last year, with an overall functional sector reaching a little beyond 600 kilometers. More than 650 kilometers are under construction, about 100 kilometers being expected to be opened to traffic this year.