Durrës-Kukës Highway

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A1 motorway shield}}

A1 motorway
Autostradë A1
Rruga e Kombit or SH10
The A1 runs through central and northern Albania.
Map key – green in use
Route information
Part of
Length114 km (71 mi)
Major junctions
West end SH1 in Milot interchange
East end SH5 in Kolsh temporary junction
R7-Kosovo.svg in Morine/Verbnice border crossing with Kosovo (planned)
CountiesDurrës, Lezhë, Tirana, Kukës
Major citiesDurrës, Laç, Lezhë, Rrëshen, Kukës
Highway system
Highways in Albania

The A1 (Albanian: Autostrada A1 or Autostradë A1), also commonly Rruga e Kombit or SH10,[1] is the longest motorway in Albania running 114 kilometres (71 mi) in the counties of Durrës, Lezhë, Tirana and Kukës.[2] It consists of two traffic lanes and an emergency lane in each driving direction separated by a central reservation.

The motorway constitute part of a larger corridor connecting the Albanian Adriatic Sea Coast at Durrës in the southeast across the Albanian Alps with the Republic of Kosovo[a] in the northwest.[3] The significance of the motorway is reflected through its positive economic and cultural impact on the towns and cities within both countries it connects as well as its importance to tourism in Albania.[3][4]

The highway is also commonly known as Autostrada Shqipëri-Kosovë or Autostrada Durrës-Kukës and starts near Lezhë, Albania, passes through Kukës as SH5, enters Kosovo as R7, and ends in Pristina near Gjergjica, Kosovo. As part of the South-East European Route 7, the highway will connect the Adriatic Sea ports of Durrës and Shëngjin in Albania via Pristina, with the E75/Corridor X near Niš, Serbia.[5] The project was a joint venture by the American-Turkish consortium Bechtel-ENKA, Austrian and Albanian companies, and is expected to be finalized through a PPP road concession project by the Albanian Highway Concession initiative.

Dubbed the “patriotic highway”, the project links Albanians in Kosovo and Albania, helping to boost cultural and economic ties.[6] 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 passes mostly through mountainous terrain. Near the city of Kukës it connects with the National Road 5 (SH5) as a dual carriageway.

The A1 Motorway represent a major northeast–southwest motorway in Albania connecting the Albanian Adriatic Sea Coast in the southwest to the Albanian Alps in the northeast. A significant part of the road network of Albania, it constitute part of the European route E851 starting at Petrovac in Montenegro across Shkodër and Kukës to Pristina in Kosovo.[7] The southwestern part of the motorway around Durrës County is considered to be a segment of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway that will stretch following completion across the Balkan Peninsula from Italy in the north to Greece in the south.[8][9] In Kosovo, the A1 continues as the R7 and it is expected the A1 to be part of the Pan-European Corridor X.[10][11]

Rruga e Kombit (Nation's Highway) is a toll highway stretching between Milot, Rrëshen, Kalimash, Kukes and the border with Kosovo in Northern Albania part of the Durrës-Kukës Corridor. In June 2009, the project was symbolically inaugurated with opening of the Thirrë-Kalimash Tunnel, while other sections were partially completed by July 2010,[citation needed], and summer 2011 as the highway is still under construction.

Remaining segments between Kolsh, Kukës, and Morinë (border with Kosovo) are part of the SH5 Highway instead linking Shkodër and Kukës. However, the stretch between Thumane and Milot is part of the A1 together with the single carriageway section between Milot, and Rrëshen. Portions between Fushe Kruje and Thumane, Milot and Rrëshen, and several viaducts on the SH5 still remain to be expanded into dual carriageways, while the Milot Overpass is being completed as a Trumpet Interchange.

The highway has reduced the travel time from six hours to two, with an estimated speed of 80–110 kilometres per hour (50–68 mph). The highway has also boosted tourism in Albania and deepened the cultural and economic exchanges between Albania and Kosovo. As most tourists come through Kosovo, the laying of the highway make it easier to travel to the Durrës and Shengjin ports along the Adriatic Sea.


Scene on A1 Rreshen - Kalimash

The most challenging part of the corridor was the segment between Rrëshen and Kalimash, which is around 61 kilometres (38 mi) long. It was divided into three sections - a 19 kilometres (12 mi) stretch from Rrëshen to Reps, 27 kilometres (17 mi) from Reps to Thirrë, and 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) 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 pounds (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.

Construction work on the remaining segments in Albania finished in 2009. Even though in double carriageway standard, Kolsh-Morinë (SH5) lacks the standard of A1 as entry and exit ramps are missing, while uncontrolled entry and exit points are becoming a major safety issue.


Kalimashi Tunnel entrance at Thirra

The highway passes through a 5.5 kilometres (3.4 mi)-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 1,858 metres (6,096 ft). 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 50 metres (160 ft) 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]


In 2018, toll booths were installed by the Albanian Highway Concession and became operational in September 2018 east of the tunnel entrance at Kolsh as part of making A1 the first toll highway in Albania.

In March 2018, the motorway temporarily became a toll highway in order to upgrade remaining segments to full motorway standard, and cover the costs of maintenance. However such move was fiercely opposed by locals who claimed lack of consultation from the government and unaffordable fees. The protests turned violent and consequently made the government to withdraw from their initial position and make consultations with the affected parties. After undergoing renovations, the toll plaza was re-opened in September 2018 with reduced rates for locals.

Funding and Contractors[edit]

A1 becomes a single carriageway between Milot and Rreshen

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 was 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.[12]

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 by June 2009. Contractors working in the remaining portions of the highway were Albanian and Austrian based firms. The motorway in Kosovo was also constructed by Bechtel-Enka.

Exit list[edit]

SH5 Dual Carriageway near the Albania-Kosovo border
One of the several viaducts under construction on SH5
Type Name Destination Notes
End of SH1 between Fushe Kruje and Thumane.
Italian traffic signs - rotatoria.svg Enter Autostrada A1 Albania.svg Roundabout
Zeichen 314-50 - Parkplatz, StVO 2013.svg Europa Park Rest Area Accessible northbound only
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Fushe-Mamurras SH39 Connection to Mamurras and Patok near Adriatik
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Laç SH35 Connection to Laç, Shna Ndout Church, and Patok Lagoon-Fushe Kuqe Reserve
Sinnbild Autokreuzung.svg Fushe-Milot SH1 Milot Trumpet Interchange linking A1 with Lezhe and Shkoder to the north, Tirana to the south, and Kosovo to the east
Sinnbild Autoabzweig.svg Milot SH39 Connection to Lezhe in the north, and Lac in the south
Sinnbild Autoabzweig.svg Skuraj SH6 Connection to Burrel, Peshkopi, and Ulëz Lake Regional Nature Park in Mat region
Sinnbild Autoabzweig.svg Rubik SH30 Connection to Rubik, Katund i Vjeter area, and nearby Berzane Reserve in historic Mirdita region
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Rreshen SH30
Connection to Rreshen, Mirdita and Lura National Park to the south, and the old alternate Qafa Malit route to the north
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Reps SH40 Connection to old Qafa Malit route towards Puka and Fushe-Arrez
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Fan SH40 Connection to Klos and Zall-Xhuxha, Fan area
Zeichen 314-50 - Parkplatz, StVO 2013.svg Kastrati Rest Area Accessible eastbound only
Thirrë-Kalimash Tunnel 5.6 km long
Albanian traffic sign - ndal - stacion.svg Toll Plaza
Sinnbild Autokreuzung.svg Kolsh SH5 Connection to Fushe-Arrez and Puka, planned to be upgraded to interchange standard
End of Autostrada A1 Albania.svg. Road continues as SH5 between Kolsh – Kukes – Morine with several viaducts under construction. Drini Bridge to be upgraded. Enter Flag of Kosovo.svg Kosovo


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.[13] 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.[13] Travel times are expected to be lowered to two and a half hours or less, down from seven.[13]

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.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has been recognized as an independent state by 112 out of 193 United Nations member states, while 10 states have recognized Kosovo only to later withdraw their recognition.


  1. ^ https://www.infrastruktura.gov.al/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Monitoring-Report-of-Transport-strategy-and-Action-Plan-2016-2020.pdf
  2. ^ "MILOT – MORINE HIGHWAY PROJECT" (PDF). businesshungary.gov.hu. 8 February 2016. Archived from Re-tender_V1_ENG.pdf the original Check |url= value (help) (PDF) on 3 December 2017.
  3. ^ a b "RRUGA 6: AUTOSTRADA PRISHTINE - SHKUP" (PDF). riinvestinstitute.org (in Albanian). 2015. pp. 13–28.
  4. ^ "Die Rruga Kombëtare Durrës-Kukës-Morina – die wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Auswirkungen nationaler Großprojekte auf lokaler Ebene" (PDF). oasa.berlin (in German). pp. 1–4.
  5. ^ "THE CORE TRANSPORT NETWORK South-East Europe Transport Observatory SEETO" (PDF). ec.europa.eu. p. 2.
  6. ^ "Albania Plans Tolls for Kosovo Highway". balkaninsight.com. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
  7. ^ United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. "European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries" (PDF). unece.org. Retrieved 26 April 2011.
  8. ^ Ministry of Infrastructure and Energy. "SECTORIAL STRATEGY OF TRANSPORT & ACTION PLAN 2016 – 2020" (PDF). infrastruktura.gov.al. Tirana. pp. 15–16.
  9. ^ "The Adriatic - Ionian Transport Corridor" (PDF). researchgate.net. p. 5.
  10. ^ "Albania – as the Bridge of Routes and Transport Corridors between the Adriatic Sea and Black Sea" (PDF). iipccl.org. Tirana. pp. 3–4. Durres – Kukes – Morine - Kosovo border Corridor: 115 long (included a 5.6 km tunnel). It is seen as having major regional potential impact by providing a better connection to Corridor X and to Serbia through Pristina.
  11. ^ "Brnabic: Construction of Nis-Pristina-Tirana-Durres motorway to begin in 2019". serbianmonitor.com.
  12. ^ "Politics heat up as Basha's charges are brought to Supreme Court". tiranatimes.com.
  13. ^ a b c Benet Koleka (28 June 2007). "Highway set to bring Albania and Kosovo closer". Reuters. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  14. ^ "Engel: Berisha si Auzenhaur, nderton sistem autostradash ()". Koha Jone Magazine. 7 June 2010. Archived from the original on 21 September 2010.

External links[edit]