Bulgaria's Regional Development Ministry is set to open the tenders for the construction of the Maritsa and Struma highways in the fall of 2010.
On Friday, the Ministry will approve the environmental assessment of the Maritsa Highway, linking the city of Plovdiv to the Turkish border, Regional Development Minister Rosen Plevneliev announced. This will pave the way for opening the respective construction tender in October.
He stated that the tender for the other highway, Struma, which will link Sofia to the Greek border, is expected to open at the same time.
In his words, the Ministry is still working on the project for the construction of its Lot 3, between Blagoevgrad and Dupnitsa, and in order to create the project, the Bulgarian government will seek technical assistance from the European Commission.
Plevneliev revealed that the Ministry is preparing an application for EU funding for the Hemus Highway (linking Sofia and Varna through Northern Bulgaria) from the Union's 2014-2020 financial framework.
"The Hemus Highway is a very difficult project. The missing section between the Bulgarian cities of Shumen and Yablanitza is 245 km and it would need a funding of approximately EUR 1.2-1.3 B. It will take at least 2-2.5 years to draft the project and then we will consider two or three options," Plevneliev said.
In his words, it is very difficult to apply public-private partnership to the Hemus Highway because this model usually works for the busiest and most lucrative roads like Maritsa, Trakiya and Struma. Plevneliev said that his Ministry is working on this case with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
"Of course, this is the option that works - EU funds, programs from January 1, 2014, and full preparation on our part, so that we do not repeat the mistakes from 2007, 2008 and 2009. These three years passed by with only 0.36% absorption of EU funds," he said.
The Minister has also said that the revised 2010 budget provides BGN 180 M for payment of construction projects.
In his words, BGN 32 M will be set aside for the 30 km section from the Maritsa Highway, another BGN 30 M will be spent on the southern part of the Sofia Beltway; the repair of the Brussels Boulevard in Sofia will cost BGN 15 M, and BGN 50 M are foreseen for expropriation.
Apart from the BGN 180 M, the Bulgarian government has approved on Wednesday the allocation of BGN 86.1 M for the finishing of Lyulin Highway. In this way the cost of the highways is raising to EUR 185 M, instead of the initial EUR 138 M. The additional funding is over continuous disputes of the Bulgarian government. with the project executer, the Turkish construction company Mapa Cenghiz.
"If we haven't reached a consensus for this amount with the executers, the project could have reached EUR 250 M. They had a right to ask for more money because Bulgaria delayed the issuing of the construction permit, and the expropriation of the land," Plevneliev said.