YEREVAN -- The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved nearly $1 billion in loans to upgrade most of Armenia's highways and to facilitate the landlocked country's commercial access to Georgia's Black Sea coast, RFE/RL’s Armenian Service reports.
About half of the funding will be used to expand and repair roads stretching from the Armenian-Iranian border to one of the two main Armenian-Georgian border crossings, a part of the North-South Road Corridor Investment Program that was approved by the Armenian government in August.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said the government estimates the cost of the seven-year project at $1.5 billion and hopes the ADB will contribute half of the funding. ADB estimates the project at $962 million and says half of the sum is to be raised by the Yerevan government and "other development partners."
The bank says the first ADB loan of $60 million will be used to reconstruct an 18-kilometer road north of Yerevan and improve the safety of the Yerevan-Ararat highway.
A Transport and Communications Ministry official told RFE/RL the government hopes to attract international donors and lending institutions in order to contribute the government's portion of the financing.
The ADB has also approved another $500 million loan to construct a road in southern Georgia and its Black Sea region of Ajara.
The Armenian and Georgian governments agreed last year to jointly seek external assistance to rebuild highways in those areas to substantially facilitate travel between Armenia and the Georgian Black Sea coast.
Georgia is currently completing the reconstruction of a 50-kilometer highway in its Javakheti region, bordering Armenia.