Grande Raccordo Anulare
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Italian Wikipedia. (September 2011)|
|Grande Raccordo Anulare|
|Length:||68.2 km (42.4 mi)|
The GRA or Grande Raccordo Anulare (literally, "Great Ring Junction" and not so literally as the "Great Ring Road") is a toll-free, ring-shaped orbital motorway, 68.2 kilometres (42.4 mi), in circumference that encircles Rome. Its acronym was given after one of its main designers and supporters, Eugenio Gra, chairman of ANAS, the Italian roads Authority, at the time of construction.
The official number among the Italian motorways is A90, although barely known and not found anywhere on road signs. It's widely known by Romans as Il Raccordo ("The Junction").
Foundamental GRA History
1948: Building works begin
1951: Appia-Aurelia section is opened
1952: Flaminia-Tiburtina section is opened
1955: Tiburtina-Appia section is opened
1960: 1960 Summer Olympics - road was part of the marathon course.
1962: Lane number is doubled, in Salaria-Tuscolana section
1970: Aurelia-Flaminia section is opened, the ring is completed.
1979: GRA is now officially a highway
1983: Works to a 6-lane set begin
1997: 50% of the GRA track is on a 6-lane (2x3) set
2000: 75% of the GRA track is on a 6-lane set
2007: 97% of the GRA track is on a 6-lane set
2011: End of works to the 6-lane set
Plans for an orbital road around Rome were proposed by the end of the World War II. One of the designers' main purposes was to build the road as most equally distant as possible from the geographic centre of town, the Campidoglio, 11.4 kilometres (7.1 mi) away from the motorway.
Construction works started in 1948. The first section, Flaminia to Tiburtina (north-to-east section) opened in 1952, later extended in stages. The last section to be opened was the west-to-north section (Aurelia to Flaminia), in 1970.
Although the GRA was initially planned and built as a single-carriageway road, it was soon clear that traffic was rapidly growing well beyond the expectations. Upgrade works to motorway standards started in late 1950s with first dual-carriageway, four-lane section (Salaria to Tuscolana) opened 1962. Further works were carried over throughout the 1970s, and by 1979 the remainder sections were upgraded to four-lane and the entire ring classified as toll-free highway.
Upgrade works to 6-lane started in 1983 and were completed in stages throughout the 1990s and 2000s. As of April 2008 97% of the GRA was 6-lane with final sections (new tunnel under Via Cassia) opened 2011.
GRA now 
As of 2011, GRA is one of the most important roads in Rome, and traffic reaches 160,000 vehicles per day, and maintenance costs are around 11 million euros per year.
GRA features 14 tunnels, with lengths varying from the 66 meters of Parco di Veio II tunnel to the 1150 meters of the Appia Antica tunnel and 8 rest areas.
GRA has 42 junctions, with Via Aurelia being numbered as 1 and other following clockwise. Actually, Romans refer to every junction with the name of street that it crosses.
Thought it is officially a highway, GRA never had a road toll, although there are plans, albeit not yet in place as of August 2011, to introduce a fee for vehicles entering the GRA from Highways.
A New GRA? 
It has been suggested that a second ring might be constructed in the future, firstly as an attempt to alleviate congestion on the old one and secondly to offer access to a number of new industrial, commercial and residential zones built around it. Such a project would imply a new external ring-shaped orbital motorway of about 120 kilometres (75 mi), denominated NIA (Nuova infrastruttura anulare, "New ring infrastructure"), which would cost over €5 billion.
See also 
- Périphérique (Paris)
- M25 motorway (London)
- M30 motorway (Madrid)
- Capital Beltway (Washington, DC)
- Highway 407 ETR (Toronto)
- MKAD (Moscow)