Bypass road, “bypassed” by the Authorities
Announced with great pomp in early 2012, Chisinau's bypass road remained just an unfulfilled promise. Five years after the announcement of the project, the authorities did not even develop a feasibility study to determine the need for the ring road and its route. In the absence of the “plan”, however, a construction company was contracted, which conducted only 3% of the works in two years on a bypass road segment that was to be ready in January 2018. The whole Bypass road would cost about EUR 200 million, money the authorities do not know where to take from.
The epic saga of Chisinau Bypass road
For the first time, the Ministry of Transport and Road Infrastructure has announced its intention to build a bypass road in Chisinau back in January 2012. The Minister of Transport at that time, Anatol Salaru stated that several project scenarios were developed and the bypass road of Chisinau will be ready in 2015. A year before the authorities had to cut the bypass road inauguration ribbon, Salaru's successor, Minister Vasile Botnari announced the first postponement. “Chisinau Municipality will have a bypass road by 2017. We want to build a modern bypass road, according to European standards”, Botnari assured. According to the official, the existence of a Chisinau bypass road would allow for full redirection of transit transport, but also an easier access to the destination for Chisinau inhabitants, bypassing the city center.
From one delay to another
The second postponement came earlier this year. In February 2017, the Minister of Transport and Road Infrastructure, Iurie Chirinciuc announced that although the construction works are underway, the inauguration of the Chisinau bypass road will be delayed until 2022. But the ministry did not show a time schedule of individual steps, that are yet necessary in project preparation. In EU countries it usually takes 7 – 10 years, plus cca 3 years for construction. A new road ca be open in 5 years only if it is currently already in the phase of land acquisition and designing detail documentation. In case of the Chisinau bypass road it is not. Not even close. More than ten months after this declaration, no km of road was built. In the place where the first segment of the bypass road should have been found, only excavations and asphalt milling work were done over a distance of one kilometer. On the side of the road, an excavator is left behind the company's two wagons. There is no human being on the site.
3% of the works, executed in two years
The rehabilitation of the first segment of 6.5 km of the Chisinau bypass road is handled by the Bulgarian company SK-13 Patstroy JSC, which was hired by the state in September 2015. With almost EUR 1.3 million invested in each kilometer, the first sector of the bypass road would be put into operation in January 2018. Until now, the Bulgarian entrepreneur executed only 3 percent of the works.
“In 2017, the company did not build anything, it only made some demolitions of the existing road structure”, confirms Alexandru Untilov, head of the State Inspection in Construction.
In the report for the month May available on the asd.md website, the State Road Administration mentioned the following: “the lack of progress on the construction site is considered by the authorities to be due to the shortage of financial sources, the lack of available credit line and the failure of the contractor to offer the bank guarantee for payment of the advance. Gheorghe Curmei, general director of the State Road Administration, however, claims that almost EUR 673 thousand from the EIB's loan reached the accounts of the Bulgarian company, but it executed works in the amount of only EUR 200 thousand.
Due to the arrears, the company risks losing the contract, says Curmei.
Harassed by the Minister of Transport?
We have not been able to contact the representatives of SK-13 Patstroy JSC. The officials from the State Road Administration also say they cannot get in touch with the Bulgarian entrepreneur. In case of emergency, the authorities declare they will have to go to Bulgaria to look for the company's management.
The company name SK-13 Patstroy JSC was targeted in the criminal case regarding the former Minister of Transport, Iurie Chirinciuc. In the motivated sentence of the Chisinau Court it is said that, through the decision makers of the State Road Administration, he would have created impediments for the company, by failing to enact certain acts for the execution of the works and delaying the approvals. The minister would have pressed the Bulgarian company to transfer 50 percent of the volume of works for the construction of the bypass road to two companies.
After several delays, currently, the authorities do not know when we will have a bypass road of Chisinau. The Transport and Logistics Strategy for 2013-2022 states that two sections of the bypass road, of 9 and 8 km respectively, estimated at EUR 41 million, have been proposed for funding from EBRD and EIB loan. Anatol Usatîi, the state secretary at the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure, says that Chisinau bypass road occupies the second place in the priority list of road projects in the country, but no financial resources have yet been identified for construction.
They started the works without knowing what would come out
The Bulgarian company was contracted by the state to begin the construction of the bypass road before the existence of a feasibility study for the Chisinau bypass road project. “The feasibility study is going to show which sectors have traffic and how many roads need to be built again. And if these are needed”, says Anatol Usatîi, the State Secretary at the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure.
Up to this moment, only two concepts have been developed that envisage the construction of the bypass road in Chisinau. The first one involves the construction of a four-lane road with a length of 80 km and a cost of works of EUR 220 million. The second project provides for a 62-km route that would cost EUR 200 million. However, these estimates do not include the land expropriation expenses needed to construct three new sectors out of six sectors that the bypass road will contain.
Can it be that Chisinau does not need a Bypass Road?
Ján Kovalčík, the analyst of the Institute for Economic and Social Reforms (INEKO) in Bratislava, Slovakia, says that motorway sections between cities can undertake 60-90 percent of traffic from the existing roads outside cities. However, this is not the case of bypasses, definitely not in capital cities. Traffic is much higher there not because of higher transitMost vehicles end or start the journey in the capital city.
That means a bypass designed primarily to serve transit may ease existing roads less than most people believe. Cities of the size similar to Chisinau usually need a bypass attractive also for intra-city journeys, or at least for journeys ending or starting in the capital city.
“It is very important to have a feasibility study to see whether or not the Capital needs a new road bypassing overall capital city or just a city center. It is extremely important to invite experts to carry out the traffic research to identify the existing and future bottlenecks. Additionally, in order to analyze the potential of all relevant measures that can solve the key traffic problems or can be part of a complex solution. The sooner, the better”, said Ján Kovalčík.
He also suggest to ask, whether Chisinau region took opportunity to ease roads with providing more attractive public transport (trains/trams/buses). “There is often potential of measures in public transport that can improve the use of existing infrastructure. Such measures may bring fruits earlier and even cheaper than a bypass road, which needs much more time for preparation and construction,” he add.
This investigative article was developed with the support of the Project “Strengthening civil society capacities in the field of open data use", implemented by the United Nations Development Program and financed by the SlovakAid Transition Knowledge and Experience Transfer Program of the Slovak Republic. All opinions belong to the authors/author and do not reflect the official position of UNDP Moldova, the Government of the Republic of Moldova, the Government of the Slovak Republic or their affiliates.
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