08.07.2012 § 1 Comment
After decades of being tossed around on the high waves of economic uncertainty and construction stagnation, the Bulgarian government is finally backing some serious infrastructural improvements to transportation. Boyko Borisov, Bulgaria’s current premier and leader of the GERB party, is the subject of thousands of political jokes and jabs, and opinions about him range from “exactly what Bulgaria needs” to “a thug with links to the Mob”. However, he has been instrumental in absorbing EU infrastructure funds and putting them to good use. Regardless of whether it’s for the good of the nation or for photo-ops at ribbon-cutting ceremonies, under his leadership Bulgaria has committed to several infrastructure projects of major importance.
Linking Sofia and Burgas, with two stretches totalling 275 out of the 360 total planned kilometres, Trakia motorway is about to become the second to be completed of the six highways that have been planned since the 1970’s:
A1 – Trakia motorway (Sofia – Burgas) 275/360 km
A2 – Hemus motorway (Sofia – Varna) 151/433 km
A3 – Maritza motorway (Trakia motorway – Kapitan Andreevo) 42/117 km
A4 – Cherno More motorway (Varna – Burgas) 10/103 km
A5 – Lyulin motorway (Sofia – Pernik) 18/18 km
A6 – Struma motorway (Pernik – Kulata border crossing) 19/150 km
On July 1, 2012, Boyko Borisov cut the ribbon on LOT 2 – the 32-km third-to last stretch of Trakia motorway that remains under construction. Rumour has it that LOT 3 (35 km) is weeks from being completed, and that LOT 4, the longest remaining stretch of the motorway at 48 km, will be finished by the end of 2012. Through successfully absorbing EU infrastructure funds, the Borisov government has garnered a reputation for finishing such projects within budget and on time. Maritza motorway should be ready by June 2013, Hemus and Cherno More motorways will be finished in the subsequent EU planning period, after 2014.
Another planned improvement that has been in the works for decades, the Sofia metro is finally poised to relieve some of the congestion plaguing the most polluted capital in Europe. Difficulties in building a subway system in the capital stemmed from lack of funding, a perceived lack of necessity for underground transit, and the necessary depth it would require to preserve the layers of history buried beneath the city. With the city constantly growing (currently home to 1.4 million people), EU funds and an increasingly hellish morning commute, since the late 90’s efforts have been made to complete the city’s rapid transit system.
The first (red) line, consisting of 16 stations, is currently entirely operational. Built in two stages: Obelya – Serdica (opened 1998-2003) and Sofia University – Mladost 1 (opened 2009), it received its newest two stations: Mladost 3 and Tzarigradsko Shose, in April of 2012. The projected expansion in orange (to be completed by 2014) will link the system to Sofia airport.
The second (blue) line is currently under heavy construction, with 11 stations slated to open in September. Some construction photos indicate that this project is on track as well.
Vidin – Calafat Bridge
The first bridge linking Bulgaria and Romania over the Danube was completed in 1954 after 2.5 years of construction. It linked Ruse and the Romanian city of Giurgiu, and was known as “Friendship Bridge” until the fall of Communism. As traffic between Bulgaria and its neighbour to the North has been steadily increasing, the construction of a second bridge has become a vital necessity. After a few false starts and delays, with construction lasting over 5 years overall, the Vidin – Calafat bridge (also known as Danube Bridge 2) is projected to be completed by the end of 2012.