When Armenia gained independence in 1991, the roads and highways were in terrible condition, and deteriorated even further due to lack of funds for repairs. In the 1990s, money was raised by Armenia Fund to build the important Goris-Stepanakert Highway, since there was no road connection between Armenia and Karabakh. Kirk Kerkorian gave a large sum to this project in matching donations, even 2:1. His Lincy Foundation also undertook the entire cost of repaving the whole highway from north to south in Armenia, going from Iran to Georgia. He also funded the completion of the tunnel from Lake Sevan to Dilijan which had been left incomplete upon the collapse of the USSR.
In 2009, the Asian Development Bank made a loan available to Armenia to build a new north to south highway meeting international standards, linking Iran to Georgia. Construction began in 2012 by a Spanish construction firm. In 2015, the first two segments of the highway (totaling 50km) were opened, linking Yerevan to Ashtarak in the north, and to Artashat in the south. 120km of extensions are slated for completion in 2018.
In 2013-14, Armenia Fund raised money to build a second highway linking Karabakh to Armenia, this one to the north. The Vardenis-Martakert Highway began construction which continues in 2016.
North-South transport project
First Phase Of Armenian Highway Upgrades Complete
Armenian officials inaugurated on Tuesday two roads southeast and northwest of Yerevan that have been rebuilt as part of an ambitious project to upgrade Armenia’s main highways stretching more than 550 kilometers to Georgia and Iran.
The North-South transport project worth an estimated $1.5 billion is aimed at facilitating the landlocked country’s access to the Georgian and Iranian ports. It is also designed to enable Iran to use Armenian and Georgian territory for large-scale freight shipments to and from Europe.
In 2009, the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB) lent the Armenian government $500 million for the planned road upgrades. But it was not until 2012 that a Spanish construction firm contracted by the government began expanding and repaving the two highways connecting Yerevan to the towns of Ararat and Ashtarak.
The total length of those highways is about 50 kilometers. Their reconstruction cost $70 million.
Work on about 120 kilometers of other roads running further southeast and northwest of the Armenian capital is due to be finished in 2018. It too is being mainly financed from the EDB loan.
Earlier this year the government borrowed $150 million from the Kazakhstan-based Eurasian Development Bank (EDB) to rebuild a 20-kilometer road currently going through Armenia’s highest mountain pass close to the Iranian border. Most of that money is due to be spent on the construction of a 4-kilometer tunnel.
The tortuous Kajaran pass is situated over 3,000 meters above the sea level and is frequently closed to traffic in winter months because of snowstorms and ice.
The government has yet to secure funding for upgrading and shortening the remaining strategic highways. Accordingly, it has set no dates for the completion of the entire North-South project.