Albania's highway to reach Kosovo

Tirana, Sept 30, 2006 – Albania approved a €250 million contract to build a four-lane stretch of highway reaching neighbouring Kosovo.

Bechtel International Inc., based in San Francisco, will build the 55-kilometer (35-mile) road segment, which will include a 6-kilometer (nearly 4-mile) tunnel, the government said in a statement.

Work on it will begin next month and more details on the project will be made available in the coming days, officials said.

Kosovo is important to Albania because most of the tourists visiting the western Balkan country are ethnic Albanians from Kosovo and Macedonia as well as expatriate Albanians returning from other parts of Europe.

The portion of the highway being built by Bechtel is part of a larger 170-kilometer (105-mile) highway to Kosovo.

The completed highway will run from the port city of Durrës — 35 kilometres (20 miles) west of the capital Tirana — to the town of Kukës, 200 kilometres (125 miles) northeast of Tirana, and then to the Morina border crossing point.

Prime Minister Sali Berisha made it a priority of his government, whose mandate is up in 2009, to construct a new and shorter road linking Albania to Kosovo.

The new road will be about 45 kilometres (nearly 30 miles) shorter than existing roads and it will shorten travel time, which can now take up to six hours, to two hours.

The current road, which has only two lanes, is full of potholes and winding turns, making it virtually impossible to drive at speeds faster than 40 kph (25 mph) on average.

The new road will be funded from the domestic budget but also with loans from international financial institutions, officials said.

ECIKS / Source: AP