Bulgaria to Start Slowly Major Mountain Tunnel Construction
Bulgaria's government is launching next week the tender for the construction of the beltway of the central city of Gabrovo, the first step to the construction of the long-anticipated Shipka Pass Tunnel in Central Bulgaria, Regional Development Minister Lilyana Pavlova has announced.
The project, which will include the design and construction of Gabrovo's ring road as well as the designing of the Shipka Pass Tunnel, is estimated to coast about BGN 135 M, Pavlova revealed during a visit in the village of Lovnidol, Sevlievo Municipality, Gabrovo District, on Saturday.
"The design of the Shipka Pass Tunnel is supposed to be completed parallel to the construction of the road circumventing the city of Gabrovo. If the tender is successful, we hope that the construction of the road can start in the spring of next year," Pavlova explained, adding that the construction of the tunnel will most likely begin after 2014, in the next programming period of the EU (2014-2020).
Pavlova listed her ministry's priorities for infrastructure projects with EU funding for the next programming period of the EU – first, the southwestern Struma Highway running from Sofia to the border with Greece; second, the Hemus Highway running from Sofia to Varna in Northern Bulgaria; third, the Shipka Pass Tunnel, which is supposed to help connect Northern and Southern Bulgaria.
The future tunnel, of which Bulgarian governments have talked for ages, is a major infrastructure project that is supposed to greatly facilitate the traffic and exchange between the northern and southern halves of the country.
The Shipka Pass Tunnel is supposed to become a crucial part of the Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 9 connecting Helsinki in Finland with the Greek Mediterranean port Alexandroupolis, going through Bulgaria's Ruse and Gabrovo. The Shipka Pass Tunnel will thus provide a faster route from the Danube River to the Mediterranean.
Back in 2010, then as the Regional Development Minister, Bulgaria's current President Rosen Plevneliev stated the Shipka Pass Tunnel should be built by 2020.
Bulgaria's Cabinet has already slated for the long-delayed construction of the Shipka Pass Tunnel a total of BGN 352 M from the EU money it is to receive from the Transport Operational Program for the next programming period (2014-2020). In March 2012, the project got an environmental permit.
The Shipka Pass Tunnel was first initiated as a railway tunnel project in 1897 but was not materialized. It was resurrected in 1970, and then again in 1991 and 1999.
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