About 55% of the construction of the so called Danube Bridge 2, the second one to connect Bulgaria and Romania over the Danube River, have been completed.
This information emerged on Thursday as Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov inspected the construction of the long-anticipated bridge connecting Bulgaria's Vidin and Romania's Calafat.
"I am happy with what I saw, I hope the builders will complete the bridge within the deadlines to make up for the delays," Borisov said on the spot, as cited by the government press office.
The FCC, the Spanish construction firm building the bridge, has already completed the foundations on the both sides of the river, and has created auxiliary construction facilities.
The official announcement of the Bulgarian government says that the crude completion of the bridge is expected by the end of 2011, and will be followed by the laying of railway tracks and asphalt for the road.
The government says that of the total of EUR 225.8 M under the financial memorandum for the project, a total of EUR 107.7 M have been paid, and EUR 181 M have been contracted.
"The motivated proposal for expanding the term of the financial memorandum, which was coordinated with our Romanian partners, is until December 31, 2012, and has been submitted to the European Commission," says the announcement with respect to the request to extend the deadline for absorption of ISPA program funding for Danube Bridge 2.
The original push for the construction of a second Danube Bridge between Bulgaria and Romania came as a result of the NATO bombing of Milosevic's Yugoslavia in 1999. After the campaign subsided, however, the procedures for the bridge dragged on. It was supposed to be ready by 2010 but land expropriation procedures and disputes between the Spanish firm FCC and the governments of Bulgaria and Romania obviously delayed the construction.
As recently as the summer of 2010, the Presidents of Bulgaria and Romania pledged the bridge would be ready by June 2011. Thursday's announcement of the Bulgarian government, however, indicates that the demands on part of the builder for another extension have been met.
When finally completed, Danube Bridge 2 will be third ever bridge in the Bulgarian-Romanian section of the Danube in the past 2000 years.
In the 4th century Roman Emperor Constantine I the Great built the largest river bridge in ancient times, Constantine's Bridge on the Danube, which was 2.5 km long, 6 meters wide, and existed in 328 AD - ca. 355 AD.
The "next" bridge (today's Ruse-Giurgiu Bridge) on the Lower Danube, in the Bulgarian-Romanian section of the river was built only in 1954, about 1 600 years later, at the initiative of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin.