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Delaying Struma Highway Project Increases Construction Costs by 75%, Experts Predict

Delaying the project by 5 years increased the cost of construction and the cost of labor

Due to complaints from ecologists, the price increase will be up to 75 percent, experts predict

The performers have been selected in 2019 and 2020.

After nearly 5 years of delay, the construction of the Struma highway through the Kresna Gorge finally begins, the regional ministry announced.

This became possible after the European Commission gave the “green light” for the project, which was repeatedly thwarted by green activists with a series of complaints, mainly related to the protection of the animal world in connection with the construction.

Brussels ruled a few days ago that design and construction of the lane from the Tower to Sofia can begin on the so-called Eastern option, which financiers, road safety specialists and open-minded ecologists have identified as the safest. It separates the traffic, and in the direction of the Tower, traffic remains on the existing route to the border.
It will be repaired and expanded in some sections, and the traffic to Sofia will be diverted outside the Kresnen Gorge.

However, the five-year delay, mainly due to environmentalists wanting to stop the project, will invariably make the completion of the Struma highway more expensive, say experts. The reason – inflation in the last five years, double and triple the price of construction materials and increase in the cost of labor.

The contractors for the construction of the route outside the Kresna gorge on the Eastern option were actually selected in December 2019 and in June 2020, and by now the route from Greece to the Bulgarian capital could be fully completed, construction experts commented to “Trud news”.

The route of the section through the Kresna Gorge between Krupnik and Kresna was divided into two sections. The first tender for the route with a length of just over 13 kilometers was won by the DZZD “APP Lot 3.2.1”, which includes the companies “Groma Hold”, “European Roads”, “Water Construction – Blagoevgrad”, “Road Project” and “Vakhostav” -SK”. The value of the contract is almost BGN 600 million including VAT. 3 road junctions, 3 tunnels, 10 viaducts with a total length of about 3.5 km, as well as 3 overpasses and underpasses are planned. The contractor was selected back in December 2019, and the contract was signed together with the one for the next section in April last year.

A contractor for the second section was selected in June 2020. The section has a total length of 10.4 km, but also includes another 5.5 km – a bypass of Kresna, which started in May 2023, in order not to lose the EIA for the entire route of the Eastern option. The contract for the second section is with DZZD “AM Struma – 3.2.2.” The union includes “GBS – Infrastructure Construction”, “EPOS – Empreza Portugesa de Obras Subterraneas” and “Glavbolgarstroy International”. The value of the contract is slightly over BGN 570 million including VAT. Along the route there will be 4 more tunnels, 10 viaducts with an approximate length of about 3.6 km, 9 intersections with agricultural roads.

It is clear to everyone from the construction sector that the prices of the offers with which the companies applied in 2019 cannot be the same today and it is impossible that the Struma highway will be built at the same price.

At the moment, however, the contractors have not requested an increase in the price of the contracts, the regional ministry announced in response to questions of Labor news.

“Until now, there have been no requests to change the price of the contracts in connection with the adopted Methodology for changing the price of a contract for public procurement as a result of inflation, adopted with PMS No. 275/13.12.2023,” explained the Ministry of regional development and public works. According to the amendments adopted in the methodology at the end of last year, the indexation happens once every three months after an application is submitted by the contractors and also covers offers submitted before 2020. In this way, it is guaranteed that the winners will be interested in working on the won orders and the losses of euro funds will be minimized.

Inflation only from the beginning of 2020 until the end of January this year is 32.7 percent. However, the increase in price also depends on the specific increase in the price of the materials and their weight in the cost of the project. According to experts, whose opinion Trud news sought, the real increase in the price of the contracts should be between 30 and 75 percent according to various estimates.

Within a year, it will be clear about the route in the direction of the Tower

With a new route to the border, a new EIA will also be needed

There are currently stakes placed in the Kresnen Gorge, which prevent overtaking.

The “Struma” highway in the direction from Greece to Sofia will be fully completed in 4 years and 3 months, according to the contracts signed with the contractors. “The deadline for the implementation of the design is 8 months, and the construction of each of the two lots is 1,286 days – 43 months or 3.5 years”, the Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works (MRRB) reported to “Labor news”.

The fate of the highway in the direction from the Bulgarian capital to the Tower is not yet clear. At the moment, there are several options being discussed. First of all – to fully implement the Eastern option, according to which the traffic to the border must remain on the existing first-class road through the gorge, and it is mainly repaired and expanded in certain sections that allow this by taking part of the cliff or completing it over the river.

The second option that is being discussed is that the second lane in the direction of Greece on the “Struma” highway should be taken out of the Kresna gorge and built parallel to the one that began to be built in the direction of Sofia.

Experts are not clear on which is the better option. It is undoubtedly cheaper to renew and expand the existing route, experts explained to “Trud news”. The concern of specialists comes from the fact that the process may be delayed due to new complaints from environmentalists. As well as from the fact that the route does not allow full highway gauge along its entire length between Krupnik and Kresna. On the other hand, repair of the prime road should be done anyway, as some of the facilities and pavement have been compromised by the increased traffic and need renovation to be safe, road experts stressed.

There are also defenders of the second option – to take the highway completely out of the gorge. An analysis is needed, but it may turn out that building the route in the direction of Greece to the new one may not be so expensive. Moreover, there is currently a requirement to duplicate the tunnels with at least one parallel facility. These emergency tunnels can be made directly with a larger gauge and become part of the route in the opposite direction, the experts commented for “Trud news”.

In this case, however, a new EIA will also be necessary, and the design and all necessary procedures will take at least 5-6 years, road experts recalled.

Greater clarity on which option will be chosen will become clear within a year. “In the investment program of the “Road Infrastructure” Agency, it is planned to announce a public procurement in March 2024 for “Development of a pre-investment study and design, which will ensure the direction Sofia – Kulata, outside the Kresna Gorge”, explained the Ministry of Construction for ” Labor news”. The order must be fulfilled within 180 calendar days or half a year. Its indicative value is BGN 1 million, the MRRB specified.

“The preparation of a pre-investment study aims to prove the possibilities for the construction of a new duplicating road route of AM “Struma” in the direction towards Kulata, outside the Kresna gorge, clarifying the road connections with the existing road network in the direction, carrying out geological studies and establishing the approximate amount of capital investments and their efficiency”, the ministry added.

The facility would make vignettes and tolls more expensive

The battle was for a long tunnel in the interest of foreign companies

Kiril Petkov’s father lobbied for him

Struma’s delay was mainly due to a series of complaints from environmentalists.

The delay and increase in the cost of completing the Struma highway is mainly due to a series of complaints from ecologists and green activists, which, however, according to evil tongues, were not aimed at preserving nature and the animal world, but subordinated to purely economic interests. It was the greens who insisted on building a long tunnel through the Kresna gorge, although all road engineers, road safety specialists, builders, financiers, economists and open-minded ecologists were adamant that it was dangerous and would also ruin the eco-equilibrium in the area.

Rumors claimed that the most ardent eco-activists such as Toma Belev, Petko Kovachev and Petko Petkov (Kiril Petkov’s father) received funding for their green projects from Swiss organizations. It is no coincidence that the former prime minister entrusted his father with the decisions on the construction of the Struma highway and consulted only with him about the future of the highway, although he had experts and the help of engineers, builders, surveyors, and independent ecologists.

It was Swiss construction companies that were interested in building the long tunnel in question through the Kresna Gorge, about 15 km long, and offered the relevant technology. Although this tunnel would be more expensive, less environmentally friendly, would take longer to build, would be dangerous in case of emergencies and, according to experts, was inappropriate to build in an earthquake zone like the Kresna area.

A report of the Chamber of Builders in Bulgaria since 2015 has been warning about the risks of building a long tunnel through the Kresna Gorge. According to them, such a facility will pose risks to citizens and the environment. The tunnel falls into one of the most seismically active areas of the Balkan Peninsula, and this may prove to be a serious risk for the operation and repair of the facility, the KSB report says. They remind that every month the delay of the project is paid for by the given human victims in traffic accidents.

When a long tunnel is built, traffic will again pass through the Kresna gorge, but at a much lower speed, due to the 80 km per hour limit in similar facilities, and traffic jams will form. Only the removal and disposal of the inert materials that will be removed during the construction of a similar tunnel with a volume of nearly 6 million cubic meters would take 5-7 years. The construction of a long tunnel through Kresna will also require temporary roads through the mountain, which will also significantly disturb the eco-equilibrium in the area.

Maintaining a long tunnel would be much more expensive than building the Eastern option. Which would mean an increase in the price of vignettes and tolls so that the state has enough funds to maintain the tunnel.

Separation of traffic is the most environmentally friendly

We are losing European money for the autobahn after 2030.

The eastern option is the cheapest

The European money for completing the Struma highway must be spent by 2030, and the route must be completed. The reason is that the funds for completing the highway through the Kresna Gorge have been allocated during this program period, which ends in 2027, and according to the n+3 rule, our country has three additional years to fully complete the project.

At the moment, this seems absolutely possible, say the experts. According to them, if the route in the direction of Greece remains on the existing road, which is to be repaired and expanded in the sections where this is possible, our country will not lose European funding. Subsequently, if we really want to take the “Struma” route out of the Kresna Gorge and towards Greece, we can apply for European funding from the next program period.

Experts continue to claim that the separation of traffic in the last section of “Struma” between Kresna and Krupnik is the most environmentally friendly and economically expedient option. It also reduces the risk of road accidents and loss of human life.

In addition, this option allows for considerable flexibility in the operation of the section, which is currently lacking. In case of incidents, accidents, natural disasters or other events affecting one lane, traffic will be able to be immediately redirected to the other. This will allow a quick response of the institutions, as well as reduce traffic difficulties and delays during this time, experts say.

2024-03-10 00:20:22

#Struma #highway #Kulata #Sofia #years #Labor

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