Minister Shishkov: Completion of the Kresna road junction does not predetermine the route of the Struma Motorway, but makes the process of its completion irreversible

Minister Shishkov: Completion of the Kresna road junction does not predetermine the route of the Struma Motorw

16 May 2023 | 15:56

The motorway will ensure connectivity not only of the regions but also of Bulgaria with Greece

“Today we are taking a small step to solve a very big problem that in the years back was left without any solution. The last part of the Struma motorway, which could guarantee the overall connectivity not only of the regions, but also of Bulgaria with Greece. To ensure that our citizens will be able to move more safely, better. It is a small step, but it is a decision to make so that the process is irreversible and so that we can start on an option to solve this huge problem.” This was said by the Minister of Regional Development and Public Works architect Ivan Shishkov at the start of the completion of the road junction “Kresna” and the road connections to it, which are part of Lot 3.2 of the Struma Motorway. The ceremony was attended by Deputy Minister Nikolay Shushkov, Blagoevgrad Regional Governor Stoyan Hristov, Chairperson of the Board of the Road Infrastructure Agency Engineer Ventsislav Angelov, Engineer Desislava Paunova - member of the Board of the Agency and mayors of localities from the region.

“We are counting on the builder, we are counting on the support of the people, because despite the protest today, many people lost their lives in this gorge. It is extremely important to address transport connectivity in this region and to respond to the desire of the vast majority of the Bulgarian people who want to have connectivity and motorways built,” the Minister added. And he reminded that work is underway to strengthen the landslides at the Zheleznitsa tunnel so that in a few years there is a horizon for the Struma Motorway to be fully built and for people to be able to use it.

Minister Shishkov expressed confidence that the builder will complete the site according to the approved design and in the future be able to build as quickly as possible the entire route of this lot of the motorway. He showed the construction permit for the completion of the road junction to the attendees at the ceremony.

Ivan Shishkov explained to the media that the section, the construction of which starts today, is extremely small, but taking this step is important. “To date, we have no final choice of route and I have no explanation why people are protesting. This road junction is part of the last lot of the Struma Motorway, making the process irreversible. This is extremely important. If this had not happened, we could have lost another 2-3 years and be back to square one,” the Minister said. “I don’t think anyone can afford that. That’s why all the mayors of the whole region are here. I think everybody in the country wants the Struma Motorway to be built. Of course, when the final decision on the choice of the route is made, we will move in that direction,” he added. And he explained that the route will be chosen in relation to environmental legislation - that is, the main criterion is to be as environmentally friendly as possible.

The minister pointed out that even according to the protesters against the construction, nothing has been done for 25 years. “That is, the Struma Motorway should have been planned comprehensively, which has not been done. That is why we have to plan it now, make it such that it will be built,” he said. And he described it as the most emblematic case of the “sleeping motorways” he referred to.

Responding to a question from the media, the Minister reiterated that the completion of the Kresna Road junction does not prejudge the alignment of Lot 3.2 of the Struma Motorway. He added that he cannot promise now, as the protesters want, that the two lanes of the section will be east of Kresna Gorge before the procedure is completed. “Most likely the alignment will become clear in a few months. But if today wasn’t it, then it would be too late. Whatever the decision was, this section would be back to square one,” Ivan Shishkov said.

Referring to the criticism of the Kresna Mayor by the protesters, the Minister said that the Mayor had helped the State to make it possible for the Struma Motorway to be built, but had neither predetermined the route nor harmed the people in the region.

“You know how many lives were lost in that gorge. We can’t wait any longer, regardless of the measures taken now,” Minister Shishkov said. And he reminded that all traffic now passes through Kresna. “Whatever the decision, whichever of the three options is chosen, traffic will not pass through Kresna. Which means that this is extremely important for the settlement. Rolling back the procedure by two years means that the tyres will continue to pass through the town,” the regional minister pointed out.

Responding to a question about the timeframe for completion of the last section of the Struma Motorway, Minister Shishkov explained that it depends on the route option to be chosen. “If the two-lane route east of Kresna is chosen, it will most likely be completed in 3-4 years. However, if the route with one lane in the gorge and a Kresna bypass is chosen, in all likelihood the Kresna bypass will be built sooner, which in turn will alleviate the problem in the city. So either way it will be beneficial for the people of Kresna,” the minister said. He added that in view of the growing trade in the locality, the project envisages the construction of a parking lot to enable the residents to carry out such activities.

The minister also commented that the restaurants in the gorge are probably illegal and described as a paradox that some of the people who use the sites without a building permit are protesting against the state, which builds with one. “We need to be calmer, to make sure that not one restaurant predetermines the route, but that it is decided by purely environmental measures, because nature is all of us and we need to preserve it,” Ivan Shishkov also said.

Currently, a part of the road junction “Kresna”, which falls within the scope of Lot 3.3 Kresna - Sandanski of the Struma Motorway, has been completed and put into operation. Three out of six road links have been constructed, as well as the roundabout. The completion of the other three road links will ensure the traffic flow on the Sofia - Kulata direction is free of conflict and safe in the congested section to include traffic from the two-lane gauge of the existing first-class road in the motorway alignment of Lot 3.3 Kresna - Sandanski of Struma Motorway, which has been in operation since December 2018.

The completion of the road junction and its full operation does not predetermine the alignment of Lot 3.2 of the Struma Motorway through Kresna Gorge. The facility will be used in the implementation of all alternatives considered in the procedure that resulted in Environmental Impact Assessment Decision No. 3-3/2017. This will provide a de facto opportunity to finalize the ongoing procedure of comparison and assessment of all potential route alternatives, in full compliance with the requirements and recommendations of the European Commission. A Detailed Development Plan-Plot Plan has been prepared for the completion of the Kresna Road junction and has been published in No 23 of the State Gazette dated 14 March 2023.

Regardless of whether Lot 3.2 of the Struma Motorway is constructed and which alternative is preferred, the completion of the Kresna Road junction is necessary for a safe and conflict-free connection between the I-1 /E-79/ and the Kresna - Sandanski section of the Struma Motorway.

The completion of the road junction “Kresna” is a stage of the project “Struma Motorway” Lot 3.2.2, section “Krupnik - Kresna” - left lane from km 389+100 to km 399+500, Kresna bypass - part of the right lane from km 396+137 (along the I-1 road /E79/) to km 401+691.90≡397+000 of Lot 3.3 of Struma Motorway, including road connections”. The contractor for the design and construction works is the Company under the Obligations and Contracts Act “Struma - 3.2.2”, which includes GBS-Infrastructure construction AD, Glavbolgarstroy International EAD and EPOS - Empresa Portuguesa de Obras Subterrâneas, S.A., Portugal, Porto Salvo)” EOOD. The construction supervision has been awarded to Company under the Obligations and Contracts Act “Struma 2019-PPI-SVS”, in which are Patinvestengineering JSC and “SWS engineering Spa”, Italy, Trento.