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FEATURE STORY

Georgia: Building Better Roads – More Trucking Means More Jobs, More Businesses

September 10, 2009

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Road safety - a priority (the electronic board on the photo says "Buckle Up")

World Bank

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Georgia’s old East-West artery carries over 60 percent of the country's total road-based foreign trade
  • The two-lane road is being upgraded to a new four lane concrete highway
  • A Secondary and Local Roads project will help finance rehabilitation of about 450 km of priority secondary and local roads throughout the country

September 10, 2009 — The East-West Highway is part of historic Silk Road, and allows for transit flows connecting European, American, African and Mediterranean trade with Caucasian and Central Asian regions. Georgia 's old and only East-West artery consists of two lanes of often narrow and winding roads. A major trade route, i t carries over 60 percent of the total foreign trade that uses the road network in Georgia .

However, the long transit times despite the relatively short distances, and poor road conditions, slow traffic and increase transport costs. There is also a high risk of traffic crashes.

Until now. The road is being upgraded to a new four lane concrete highway that will move people and goods safely and quickly from Black Sea ports to borders with Armenia and Azerbaijan and is the bridge to Georgia 's future. Improving roads promotes trade, reduces poverty and is Georgia 's top priority. Georgia is investing large sums to improve its highways to become a more attractive transit country for goods. At the same time, it is upgrading secondary roads to improve the lives of all Georgians.

In response to the Government's request in 2006, the Bank has supported a series of highway upgrading projects. The Third East West Highway Program significantly scales up Bank support to Georgia in the roads sector. It builds upon the US$19 million First East-West Highway Improvement Project that started in 2006, the Second US$35 million East-West Highway Improvement Project, and US$20 million in additional financing in 2008. These efforts are part of a larger roads program that also includes financing for US$ 90 million of investments in Secondary and Local Roads.


" The road will give Georgia the opportunity—as a transit country—to attract more cargo traffic and to bring in more money. "

Ramaz Nikolaishvili

Chairman of Georgia Road Department

Tourists on their way to the seaside, businesses shipping from coast to capital and Europe to Asia will cross the country in half the time it now takes.

A Ukrainian truck driver says his transit through Georgia is already cheaper and faster. “ It's a lot better than it used to be, now they need a bypass around the capital. ”

A bypass is part of the reconstruction plan. Faster transit will also mean cheaper imports. And people can more quickly access markets and jobs.

“The new road saves a lot of time, and it isn't even finished,” said one minivan driver at the Tbilisi bus station. “It's better for your car and it's easier to drive on.”

Smaller roads are also being fixed. One mountain road was so rutted and worn, the trip to the nearest town took almost two hours. People avoided it. Marina Keshelava who sells nuts and cigarettes roadside, says there is no comparison between the old road and the new one: “Our small businesses were suffering. Now, business hasn't quite doubled, but more cars are coming through.”

The separate Secondary and Local Roads project will help finance rehabilitation of about 450 km of priority secondary and local roads throughout the country that are currently in poor condition. The project was prepared in response to the after-effects of the August conflict and to help mitigate the impact of the global economic slowdown and financial crisis. The Government sought urgent Bank support to scale up road rehabilitation activities as a means to create temporary employment in road construction, provide long-term economic benefits and improve local access through improved secondary and local roads.

That is a major reason why businessman Dato Gudavadze moved back to his small town from the capital to build a clinic. “Eighty percent of the reason why I am building the hospital right here is because of the road,” he said.

The new road makes it easier to reach the future clinic. And for Dato to build it—construction trucks either refused to haul bricks over the old road, or made it too expensive. “Now, the price isn't astronomical, it's very cheap, and the trucks are happy to come,” he adds.

International donors have mapped out which roads each of them will help Georgia upgrade, to avoid overlap and be more efficient. They included many safety features at the request of the Rural Development and Infrastructure Minister.

“Road safety is a priority, that is one of the reasons why the donor community are working together to harmonize our approaches and strengthen what we are doing,” notes Christopher Bennett, World Bank Senior Transportation Specialist.

As a result, new signs tell drivers to buckle up and obey the speed limit. More safety measures are being developed, to make Georgian roads not only faster, but also safer.



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