After this weekend, the travel time between two of Turkey's largest cities will be cut in half, dropping from over eight hours to just three and a half, in a gala ribbon-cutting set for Sunday. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will inaugurate the new highway spanning 192 kilometers connecting the way from Istanbul, Turkey's most populous city, and İzmir, a metropolis on the Aegean coast.
Cahit Turhan, the country's minister of transport and infrastructure, told Anadolu Agency (AA) that with this Sunday's opening, the Istanbul-İzmir Highway – first launched in 2010 – would be one of Turkey's main transport arteries, connecting the Marmara region to the Aegean, Western Mediterranean and western Anatolia regions.
Telling how the Osmangazi Bridge, a key plank of the project, opened in 2016, he said the bridge cut one-and-a-half hours from the travel time.
Built at a cost of nearly $10 billion, the highway will save both time and money for vehicles traveling between the two cities.
Constructed on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) model, the Istanbul-Bursa-İzmir highway project has a total length of 426 kilometers, including a 384-kilometer highway and 42 kilometers of access roads.
So far, 201 kilometers of the highway and 33 kilometers of access roads have been put into service. The 192-kilometer section, consisting of the main body of 183 kilometers and connecting roads of 9 kilometers, will be inaugurated at a ceremony to be attended by President Erdoğan on Sunday at 3 p.m.
Pointing out that the travel time between Istanbul and İzmir is currently 8.5 hours, Turhan emphasized that it will be possible to travel from Istanbul to İzmir in 3.5 hours under normal conditions via the new 404-kilometer Istanbul-İzmir Highway.
"This will bring a significant economic contribution to road users and help them save time and fuel. This route will bring important facilities and conveniences, particularly in the transportation of our industrial and agricultural products both in Turkey and abroad," the minister noted. Recalling that the state road between Istanbul and İzmir is about 515 kilometers currently, the minister said that the new highway will reduce the distance between the two cities to 404 kilometers.
Turhan said that up to 5,000 people have been employed on the construction site so far, adding that when the construction works are over, around 1,000 people will be employed in the maintenance and operation services of the project.
Underlining that the project will make major contributions to transportation services, employment and the economy, the minister noted, "I hope that when the project is completed and put into service in the coming days, the road users will see and take advantage of the benefits and economic savings I have mentioned." Turhan further stated that some $7 billion has been spent on the project so far, while $2.5 billion has been spent by the government on expropriation operations. Turhan added that the $7 billion in funding was covered by the company that is building and will operate the project, for which no public resources have been used.
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