Competition launched for construction of Milot-Fier highway, another major infrastructure project

The international competition was officially launched for the construction of a motorway section from the country’s northern town of Milot to the south-western city of Fier, part of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway, yet another major project of the national infrastructure to build a road segment in line with the highest European standards in terms of safety and efficiency in our country.

Prime Minister Edi Rama, together with the Minister of Infrastructure and Energy Belinda Balluku, as well as the Minister of Finance and Economy Anila Denaj, today unveiled the major road infrastructure project, part of the Blue Corridor motorway project, the main corridor of the EU Network in the Western Balkan region, which connects Central Europe and Northern Italy with the Balkans in Southeast Europe, with Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Greece.

“I am pleased to announce today the launch of the competition for the construction of the Milot-Fier motorway section. The Milot-Fier segment accounts for 37% or the most important part of the Adriatic-Ionian corridor. Starting from Milot and ending at the Fier Bypass, but of course with the aim of stretching this segment to the country’s north, 53 km of new roads and 62 km of existing tracks will be built. Building the access or secondary roads is the main criterion we will ask from the investor of this project in order to provide citizens the opportunity to choose between a toll road for which a fee is paid for driving faster, or the secondary roads, which will be maintained by the same investor, but free of charge for citizens,” Minister Balluku said among other things, expressing hope that the contract with the investor will be finalized and signed within 2020.

“The Adriatic-Ionian Corridor and the Milot-Fier section in particular is not just an important infrastructure project, but it will first and foremost serve to the country’s economy, agriculture, tourism and culture. The whole region where the highway will stretch along is accounted for around 50% percent of the contribution to the GDP. This project, together with our regional commitments to facilitate trade, will provide an impetus to development from north to south, as well as in the entire Western Balkan region. We expect an estimated 1.4 billion dollars impact and creation of a around 22,000 new jobs,” the Minister of Finance and Economy Anila Denaj said.

The 115-km motorway section is expected to cost around 1.2 billion euros and it will provide a new connection between the country’s north and the Tirana International Airport.

Prime Minister Edi Rama’s remarks at the project presentation ceremony:

PM Rama: Hello everyone again in this space, where we have come together to communicate with the public about another strategic project, a road section part of all dreams, hopes and promises made all over the years since pledging emerged in the political pluralism space.

We have actually expressed our ambition for the Blue Corridor since the beginning and the Blue Corridor has been part of the meetings under the Berlin Process and it has also become a priority for the Berlin Process. The funding for technical support and beginning of the work to construct this Corridor was secured, but taking notice of the incredibly long delays year after year and the huge gap between what has been already decided at the Berlin Process meetings and what bureaucracy and the inescapable European bureaucracy mechanisms have produced as a result, we decided to take a step and we actually did what other countries in the region have already decided to do by not waiting indefinitely, but instead acting and by taking such a step we opted for the Public Private Partnership as a financing mechanism for two sections of this Corridor, which are of a strategic importance to the motorway itself, namely the Milot-Balldren and Thumane- Kashar sections. It is about two concession contracts brutally and unabashedly attacked by opponents of any work and any effort for change we have tried to make over all these years and then in the context of a new situation arising out after our commitment to deliver on the Pact on the University and when we decided to channel the entire funding volume for Thumane-Kashari highway to create a new fiscal space and availability to transform teaching and living conditions of the university students and indeed, even though this is not part of the today’s topic, I want to inform everyone that work is underway together with the Municipality of Tirana and we will soon announce the competition process for the construction of the new University Campus, the new Security Academy and the Academy of Arts. In the meantime, the Milot-Balldren highway section is a process still to be exhausted in terms of time schedule and this is the reason why we are today talking about a new formula to be applied to the Milot-Fier motorway, which makes the Albanian state responsible for nothing, but the minimum guarantee for the traffic, an internationally and publicly well known practice in every country around the world, while the entire mass funding of around 1.2 billion euros will be covered by the winner of this competition  and it is understandable that this is about the Blue Corridor linking south of Croatia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece along a ring road, accounting for a considerable part of the traffic during the tourism season and where in fact we act independently in terms of the offer for the quality and safety of driving, just like Montenegro has done and just like Croatia has already done regarding an uncompleted road segment there.

The new highway will bring about a colossal transformation in every aspect. The two colleagues touched upon many elements, but, if we are to take a look at the auto-crash fatalities and injuries in accidents along Milot –Tirana section over the years, and despite the gradual reduction in the number of car accidents over the past years since our government took office, and this is a fact and not an opinion, the traffic-related death rate and injuries is still unacceptable.

The new highway will meet highest European standards. It will certainly be a toll road, but free of charge access road or secondary segment will run in parallel with it, but of course with a much lower speed limit.

Suffice it to say only that once the construction of this highway completes it will shorten the driving time between Morina and Fier to just three hours. Tourists from Kosovo will have not only faster access to the Ionian coast, but also much safer driving conditions, just like it is the case with the access from the border to the point where the Nation’s Road is connected to the rest of the road network, which will be further upgraded under this project.

A 24-hour maintenance service along the Nation’s Road is operational today. Ongoing investments are taking place along the Nation’s Road today and facts about a significant increase in road safety standards speak for themselves. In the meantime, we will solve the serious problem created along this road segment over these years of long transition in Albania, with the transition period investments in a main national road artery in a country right in the middle of Europe, a road not to be found nowhere in Europe. The national traffic resembles to the car traffic traversing through a small village, with various small business activities operating on both sides of the road and an indefinite number of road exits and entrances, an unprecedented and disgraceful thing for all of those who have designed, funded and propagated it as a success story in road infrastructure investments. That road is not a tourist corridor, but a very dangerous corridor right at the heart of a country.

Of course, unlike other countries, Albania inherits a very poor infrastructure and if we are to look at the way how Albania’s infrastructure has developed since what is largely considered the first road constructed in Albania, linking Manastir with the city of Korça, opened to traffic in 1892, the roads built until the’90s were mostly constructed by the occupiers as essential axis to serve interest of those who have ruled the country in various periods and it was only when the country won independence under a non-democratic regime that the existing roads or the previously designed roads were built or upgraded. Indeed, we inherit a road network winding up and down mountains and hills and all this as a result of the paranoia to defend ourselves and slow down the arrival of the imaginary invaders. What we inherit today is a situation that takes great patience and hardship also due to the fact that what was built previously actually was not constructed properly. I have repeatedly stated and I want to reiterate that we are the only country in Europe and the region, where one can find a road like the one linking north to south where 26 various standards have been applied along its entire stretch with a number of catastrophic situations from beginning to end.

On the other hand, I would like to state today, because I happen to consistently hear the same old tune suggesting that the national roads were built previously and none of them has been built over the past seven years. For the sake of truth, a lot of tenders for construction of roads were held previously. Work to construct many roads actually kicked off, yet none of these roads was completed when we took office and we were forced to redesign most of them and reconstruct them from scratch due to the countless absurdities of landslides, because no geological studies were carried out in advance, serious problems in designing bridges like the ones along Qukes – Qafe Plloçe road, which should be redesigned and rebuilt from scratch. The Nation’s Road is the only infrastructure to meet a certain set of standards, but which has yet to fully complete due to the dramatic shortcomings and failure to meet safety standards in many of its elements.

On the other hand, I was impressed by a study I have read recently, showing that it takes 10 to 12 years to construct a national road in Germany, the perfect country, considering the road and infrastructure network they inherit over many years, while, if we are to refer to Italy, one would find national roads whose construction has started 30 or 35 years ago. By this I want to say it is easy to make comments and opinions about the speed of construction, if you think that a project begins at the moment you see the bulldozers digging. Indeed, a project doesn’t start right there and the reason why we inherit such a catastrophe from those who take pride of building so many roads in Albania is because no designs and feasible studies were carried out in advance, let alone the tenders and the contracts that ended up three times more expensive than the original funding allocated for a project.

I would challenge anyone who would be able to name a single road, which where inaugurated with the beats of tam-tams and whose completed section before we took office is longer than the roads we have built since we took office. Let’s take for example the Fier bypass road, a strategic project that completed just few days ago, whereas the access and secondary systems have yet to complete. However construction of the main road has completed. A catastrophe, a catastrophe equally great like the propaganda of the tam-tams for the imaginary success! They used to appear on the media and they have convinced many that they have built some 10.000 kilometres of roads. Yes, there were held a lot of tenders, but no roads were built, while mountains of debt were created.

A leading international consulting company Hill International was hired to design this road project that is being up for international tender. Hill International has worked with us, providing and sharing with us its precious experience and know-how we lack in the institutions of this country and we are practically proud that any big company wishing to invest in the Balkans today is provided an offer and a request from Albania, one that honours Albanian state and it is not a piece of paper written and formulated by illiterate people like the once that were funded through the Albanian taxpayers’ money for many years.

We are confident that we will soon be able to start work to construct this highway which we expect to become accessible for most of its part in three years’ time and finally complete after five years. To conclude, it will no longer be necessary to enter Rinas airport secretly, because we are the only country in Europe at least – since I don’t know whether there is any other country in the African continent, when one drives secretly to the international airport.

In three years’ time, a new highway up to the European standards will complete, with nobody fearing that a car, a pedestrian, or an animal will all of a sudden will appear right in the middle of the road.

And not only that, anyone driving to Fier and then to Vlora will use the Vlora bypass road and will no longer need to enter the city but drive straight to the desired destination. And if they wish to drive further deeper along the tourist road along Vlora River and will then drive through the Llogara Tunnel and the driving time for anyone departing from Pristina or Tirana to spend vacation in the country’s south and Ionian beaches will be shortened and reduced significantly, while driving will be completely safe.

I would like to thank the working team! I would also like to voice confidence that Milot-Fier motorway section, like other major infrastructure projects are already underway, will represent another great and common success story and don’t forget that construction of Shengjin-Velipoje road will start very soon, not next year, but within a short time, along with the project to shorten distance with Montenegro to allow people and visitors drive along a tourist road in another Albania. Albania will actually remain the same, but this road will create another perception and another sense about being a citizen of this country, a driver in this country or a visitor to this country.

Thank you very much!