A 23-km highway bypassing the Jvari Pass in northeast Georgia is expected to enhance road safety and boost the country's position as a regional trade hub and tourist destination.
The Government of Georgia aims to start construction in early 2020 and has requested financing support from ADB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
Jvari Pass, Georgia - A road winds its way through the snow-capped mountains of northeast Georgia.
For centuries, the Tbilisi to Larsi route has connected the South Caucasus countries with the Russian Federation.
And it is a vital link in Georgia’s emerging network of economic corridors to boost regional trade and tourism.
But the current road is unsafe.
And unable to cope with increasing traffic, especially freight trucks.
In winter, avalanches and snowstorms cause regular closures, especially on the Jvari Pass.
Accidents are common, and the narrow tunnels contribute to delays.
The problems with this road cause significant economic losses for Georgia,” says Kamel Bouhmad, an ADB transport specialist.
“It impacts on the region’s job and business opportunities. Given the geological conditions and the bottleneck at the Jvari Pass section, an alternative route is needed.”
In response, the Government of Georgia plans to build a 23km highway to bypass the Jvari Pass.
Starting from Kvesheti, the new highway will follow the Khada valley, a 9km tunnel will pass through the mountains and merge on to the existing road near Kobi.
This safer and shorter Kvesheti-Kobi route will be operational year-round.
The road will be built to international engineering standards and cost around $550 million.
ADB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will help finance the project.
The new road will enhance Georgia as a regional trade hub and tourist destination.
“What is important through the highway construction is we are not only developing roads for Georgia but also its regional positioning as a country open for transport, transit, and new opportunities,” explains Irakli Karseladze, Georgia’s First Deputy Minister.
Chairman of the Roads Department.
“So that is why Kvesheti-Kobi is extremely important, first of all for the safety of people traveling there and at the same time its tremendous economic effect over the region of Stepantsminda and surroundings, and also for the country, and for, of course, the neighboring countries as well.”
Road construction is expected to begin in early 2020.
Stakeholder consultations and studies have been conducted to ensure that local communities, the natural environment, and cultural monuments are protected.
For some residents in the Khada Valley, the road cannot be built soon enough.
The village of Tskere is snowbound in winter, cutting residents off from schools, hospitals and other vital services.
“I have no other place of my own to live, so I prefer living here,” says Makvala Tsiklauri, a resident of Tskere village.
“It’s dangerous to stay in winter, no ambulance can reach, and I have no access to the rest of the world.”
The new road will provide this vital access and other benefits.
“This road will benefit new businesses and create job opportunities for locals,” says Tengiz Bedoidze, a local official from Khada Valley.
“People will open guesthouses, grocery stores, and restaurants. The region has historical importance and will attract tourists. Easier access will increase the number of tourists dramatically.”
The Kvesheti-Kobi project will protect the past and build a road to the future.