R297 highway (Russia)
Federal Highway M58
|Федеральная автомобильная дорога M58|
|Length||2,100 km (1,300 mi)|
|Russian Federal Highways|
The Russian route R297 or the Amur Highway (named so after the nearby Amur River) is a federal highway in Russia, part of the Trans-Siberian Highway. With a length of 2100 km it is the longest segment, from Chita to Khabarovsk, connecting the paved roads of Siberia with those of the Russian Far East. The construction of the road united the Russian federal highways into a single system, stretching from Saint Petersburg to Vladivostok.
The most problematic stretch of the highway lies between Chita and Khabarovsk. The first section of this route, linking Belogorsk to Blagoveshchensk (124 km in length), was constructed by gulag inmates as early as 1949. Extended and updated between 1998 and 2001, this road forms part of the Asian route AH31 connecting Belogorsk to Dalian in China.
The section of the Chita–Khabarovsk road known as the Zilov Gap remained largely unfinished and was known during semiannual mud seasons to be notoriously difficult to traverse. During the last week of May and the first three weeks of June in 2004 Jim Oliver and Dennis ONeil rode motorcycles across Russia, along the Trans-Siberian Highway. As described in Jim Oliver's book, Lucille and The XXX Road, the section between Chita and Khabarovsk was an extremely challenging undertaking. Oliver writes about the massive marsh, gravel, rock, mud, sand, washboard, pot-holes, stream fording, and detours of the elusive highway with a noticeable absence of pavement. Many motorcyclists have been injured or killed trying to "master" the Amur Highway.
In early 2004, Russian President Vladimir Putin symbolically opened the Amur Highway, with great swaths of forest separating major portions from one another. The St. Petersburg Times reported in September 2010 that paving of the highway had been completed. At a videoconference marking the event, Putin described it as "a dependable, modern farm road, but not the Autobahn". Today, the Chita–Khabarovsk road is a modern paved highway with painted reflective lane-lines.
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