Albania–Kosovo Highway

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Albania-Kosovo Highway
Rruga e kombit Autostrada A1 Italia.svg SH5-AL.svg
Rruga Dr. Ibrahim Rugova R7-Kosovo.svg Tabliczka E851.svg
Route information
Length: 272 km (169 mi)
Major junctions
From: Albania
  Milot, Rrëshen, Fushë-Arrëz, Kukës, Gjakovë/Prizren North, Rahovec/Suharekë/Prishtine/Bardhosh/Merdare.
To: Kosovo[a]
Location
Major cities: Tirana
Durrës
Laç
Lezhë
Kukës
Prizren
Pristina

The Albania–Kosovo Highway (Rruga e Kombit in Albania or Rruga Dr. Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo[a]), is a four-lane highway constructed from 2007 to 2013 by the American-Turkish consortium Bechtel-ENKA between Albania and Kosovo. The highway starts at Milot near Lezhe, Albania, passes through Kukes, Prizren, and ends near Pristina at Gjergjica, Kosovo. Ultimately, the highway will connect the Adriatic Sea ports of Durres and Shengjin in Albania with the E75/Corridor X in Doljevac near Niš, Serbia via Pristina as part of the South-East European Route 7.[1]

Dubbed the “patriotic highway,” the project links Albanians in Kosovo and Albania, helping to boost cultural and economic ties.[2] The project is Albania's largest in decades, costing over one billion euros. It includes a six kilometer tunnel in Albania, making travel and trade easier for the hundreds of thousands of people vacationing in Albania during summer holidays and for business.

A1/SH5 Highway in Albania[edit]

Typical scene on the A1 in Albania

A1 motorway in Albania refers to the road segments between Milot - Rubik - Rrëshen - Kalimash, while the remaining segment Kolsh - Kukës - Morinë is part of the SH5 Highway. The latter provides an alternative to the old SH5 route between Shkodër and Kukës. In June 2009, the project was symbolically inaugurated with opening of the Kalimash - Thirrë Tunnel, while the whole project was only finished by July 2010[citation needed] and the remaining portions by summer 2011. However, segment Milot-Rrëshen and several viaducts on the SH5 still remain to be expanded into dual carriageways in the near future. It is expected that the motorway will become a toll highway to upgrade remaining segments to full motorway standard and cover the costs of maintenance.

A1 passes through Fan River Valley

The highway is expected to reduce the travel time from six hours to two, with an estimated speed of 80–110 km/h. The highway is also expected to boost tourism in Albania and deepen the cultural and economic exchanges between Albania and Kosovo. As most tourists come through Kosovo, the laying of the highway will make it easier to travel to the Durrës and Shengjin ports, and the Adriatic Sea generally.

Rrëshen - Kalimash[edit]

The most challenging part of the corridor was the segment between Rrëshen and Kalimash, which is around 61 km long. It was divided into three sections - a 19 km stretch from Rrëshen to Reps, 27 km from Reps to Thirrë and 15 km between Thirrë and Kolshi. A total of one tunnel and 27 viaducts have been constructed through the steep and mountainous terrain.

There are 17 viaducts in the area from Reps to Thirrë. The use of a hydro-powered electricity grid instead of diesel generators has helped in reducing the carbon footprint of the project. As a result, CO2 emissions have dropped by 613,000 lb (278,000 kg) each month. The above segment as opposed to the other ones is of a higher quality both for security and construction parameters.

Tunnelling[edit]

Tunnel entrance at Thirra
Tunnel entrance at Kalimash

The highway passes through a 5.5 km-long double-bore tunnel. Construction works on the tunnel began in May 2007 and were completed with one tunnel tube inaugurated in June 2009. The south-bound tunnel was completed in July 2010. All four faces of the two tubes of the tunnel have been worked on simultaneously. Rrëshen - Kalimash segment's third section of road between Thirrë and Kolshi included Mt. Runes at an elevation of 1,858m. Laying road on Mt. Runes proved to be a challenge for the engineers. Another challenge was the transportation of construction equipment and material. As about 3,800 people worked on the project, there was the additional responsibility of feeding, clothing and housing them.

A partial collapse occurred at a 50m section in the central-south bore of the tunnel in November 2009. No injuries or equipment damages were reported. The collapse occurred because of heavy overbreak (during excavation) at a geologically complex area inside the tunnel and delayed the completion of the south-bound tunnel. During the tunnel construction, the tunneling team encountered five types of rock. In fact, only the north-bound tunnel was opened as per schedule in June 2009.[citation needed]

Remaining segments[edit]

A1 becomes a single carriageway between Rubik and Milot

Construction work on the remaining segments in Albania (Milot-Rrëshen and Kalimash-Morinë) finished in 2009. Even though in double carriageway standard, Kolsh-Morinë (SH5) lacks the quality of the former two as entry and exit ramps are missing. The viaducts along this segment will be doubled in the near future while uncontrolled entry and exit points are becoming a major safety issue.[3]

Funding and Contractors[edit]

During construction of the A1 in Albania. At Kolsh, A1 becomes SH5 by losing motorway status.

The highway project is the biggest road infrastructure project ever done in Albania. Its initial cost was estimated at €600m but during the course of construction this has more than doubled. The project is being financed by the government of Albania and some foreign lending institutions. The total cost of the highway is estimated to be over €1bn ($1.4bn).[citation needed] amid allegations of corruption and a growing public debt.

The contract for the construction of road segment between Rreshen and Kalimash which constitutes one-third of the whole project was awarded to a joint venture between Bechtel, a US-based engineering company, and Enka, a Turkey-based construction company. The contract was awarded in September 2006 and a majority of the construction works were completed in June 2009. Contractors working in the remaining portions of the highway are local firms instead. The other segments were constructed by Albanian and Austrian firms. The motorway in Kosovo is being constructed by Bechtel-Enka as well.

R7 Highway in Kosovo[edit]

Portion of the highway in Kosovo leading to Albanian border

Construction of the Kosovo portion of the highway numbered R7 and E851 started in April 2010 and ended in November 2013 with the Vërmicë-Pristina segment ending in Gjurgjica at the M9. The highway is seen as part of the larger Vërmicë-Merdare Corridor ending at Merdare border crossing with Serbia in eastern Kosovo. It is 118 km long at a cost of 700 million euro/ $937 million. This highway will set the travel time from Prishtina to Tirana to 3 hours.[4]Once the remaining E80 Pristina-Merdare section project will be finalized and completed, the motorway will link Kosovo through the present E80 highway with the Pan-European corridor X (E75) near Nis, Serbia.

Impact[edit]

Since the end of the Kosovo War of 1999, hundreds of thousands of Albanians have passed through the poor old mountain road to get to Albania's beaches.[5] Building a highway would "crystallize a year-round tourism industry and double the size of the Albanian market", while allowing both communities to rationalize agriculture.[5] Travel times are expected to be lowered to two and a half hours or less, down from seven.[5]

Once finalized, the project will link the Adriatic Sea with the Pan-European corridor X at the E80 near the town of Merdar between the contested Kosovo-Serbia border.[citation needed]

US Congressman Eliot Engel has compared Sali Berisha's vision to build this highway to that of Eisenhower to build highways across the United States.[6]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes:

a. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Serbia and the Republic of Kosovo. The latter declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. Kosovo's independence has been recognised by 108 out of 193 United Nations member states.

References:

See also[edit]

External links[edit]