The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $50 million loan to improve the transport efficiency and safety of the M6 Highway from Vanadzor in Armenia to the border with Georgia at Bagratashen, one of the most strategic roads for internal and external trade.
“Road transport plays an important role in the national economy of Armenia, which relies heavily on trade with neighboring countries like Georgia,” said Jiangbo Ning, principal transport specialist with ADB’s Central West Asia Regional Department. ”ADB supports the government’s priority to develop and increase the efficiency of the transport system as a prerequisite for economic growth, and for increased access to social and economic services.”
The M6 highway is a vital link connecting Armenia with Georgia and beyond, providing the shortest link between the respective capitals: Yerevan and Tbilisi. In 2014, the Bagratashen border crossing handled 0.85 million tons of import and export freight, representing almost half of the country’s total import freight tonnage and goods by road.
The conditions of this vital highway, though, are deteriorating and imposing high transport costs on users. Some structures are dangerous and need to be rehabilitated immediately. Every year, landslides, flooding, falling rocks, and heavy snowfall cause road closures. These factors have contributed to a poor safety record – about 30 crashes and six fatalities per year during 2012–2014.
These problems are mainly attributed to a historical lack of maintenance and limited maintenance funding, old road design and technical specifications, and a lack of qualified human resources and contractors, as well as consulting companies with the necessary knowledge and skills to conduct maintenance.
The project will rehabilitate and upgrade 51.5 km of the total 90 kilometers of the two-lane M6 highway, as rehabilitation of the remaining 38.5 kilometers will be financed by the European Investment Bank. Facilities and safety along and in the vicinity of this road section in northern Armenia will be improved, and the institutional capacity of the Ministry of Transport and Communications will be strengthened.
ADB is also providing additional support to help the government take proactive steps to increase the budget allocation for road maintenance, and enhance its effectiveness through policy dialogues.
Once completed, the project will help improve access to social services, agriculture, tourism, and jobs, with the aim of reducing regional economic and social disparities. The upgraded road link will particularly benefit the Lori region, a major destination that attracts local and international tourists, by help it transition from its high dependence on minerals and chemicals to a more diversified economy with an emphasis on the tourism and service sectors.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB in December 2016 will mark 50 years of development partnership in the region. It is owned by 67 members – 48 from the region. In 2015, ADB assistance totaled $27.2 billion, including cofinancing of $10.7 billion.