Bulgaria's Cabinet has declared the road from the Danube city of Ruse on the Romanian border to the Makaza Pass on the Greece border to be a project "of national importance" in a long-awaited move.
The Ruse-Makaza road linking Romania and Greece through Central Bulgaria is supposed to be part of the Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 9 leading from Helsinki, the Baltic states, Moscow, Kiev, and Bucharest to the Greek port of Alexandroupolis on the Aegean.
The international transport corridor, which harbors the potential to stimulate the development of much of Bulgaria's central region does not function at present, however, because the Makaza Pass remains in the Rhodope Mountains on the Bulgarian-Greek border remains closed in spite of numerous promises in the past five years by senior Bulgarian and Greece politicians that a border crossing point there will be opened "next year."
The delay in the opening of the Makaza Pass, which is some 20 km north of Greece's Aegean coastline, has been attributed to the slow construction of the road on the Greek side of the border. If it becomes fully operational, the Ruse-Makaza Pass road will provide the shortest route from Romania's capital Bucharest (and much of Central and Eastern Europe, for that matter) to the Aegean / Mediterranean.
On Bulgaria's territory the Ruse-Makaza Pass road (section of Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 9) goes through Ruse, Byala, Veliko Tarnovo, Dryanovo, Gabrovo, the Shipka Pass (Balkan Mountain), Kazanlak, Stara Zagora, Dimitrovgrad, Haskovo, Kardzhali, and Momchilgrad to reach Makaza. It is dubbed Road I-5 (E-85) for Bulgarian government purposes.
The long-anticipated decision of the Bulgarian government to make the Ruse-Makaza road a "priority project" is justified with the need to absorb EU funds under Operational Program "Transport", which would allow faster administrative procedures for investments, land expropriation, and construction.
The Bulgarian government plans to turn the road in question into a "high-speed way" (with four lanes), and to construct the 24-km road section from the city of Kardzhali to Makaza with EU funds from the Transport operational program. The section is to be constructed by a consortium, "Kardzhali-Podkova" of 4 firms for a total of EUR 32 M.
It is still unclear how if Wednesday's decision of the Bulgarian government might somehow speed up the realization of one of the most-talked about infrastructure projects in Bulgaria in the past 20 years – the construction of a tunnel under the Shipka Pass in the Stara Planina Mountain (Balkan Mountain), which is supposed to improve greatly the transport links between Northern and Southern Bulgaria along the Ruse-Makaza route.