Emergency loan to help restore Albania's damaged national road network

WASHINGTON, December 7, 1999 - The World Bank today approved a US$13.65 million equivalent credit to support the Albania Emergency Road Repair Project, an emergency operation that will restore the main route connecting the Adriatic Sea (Port of Durres) to Kosovo and the Berat-Corovode National Road - both of which were damaged by heavy refugee convoys as well as humanitarian aid and NATO vehicles during the Kosovo crisis.

Albania's road infrastructure is in very poor condition from years of neglect, in spite of three Bank projects in this sector. The Rural Roads Project, aimed at the improvement of Albania's 12,000 km of rural roads, is still under implementation, as is the National Roads Project, intended to construct additions to the 3,221 km main road network. The funds for these projects are already fully committed.

The need for this emergency project became apparent after the Kosovo conflict, during which a large number of refugees, humanitarian aid, and NATO convoys put enormous strain on the Durres (main port) -Morin (border with Kosovo) Road and the Berat- Corovode Road. Nearly 500,000 refugees entered Albania through the Morin border crossing, continued through Kukes to the southern parts of Albania (Shkoder, Tirana, Durres) and to the Berat-Corovode area where two refugee camps were located. Simultaneously, humanitarian aid and NATO heavy vehicles brought through Durres Port and Tirana Airport were transported to the refugee camps, and later, to Kosovo, as the refugees returned to their homes, increasing the daily traffic from 500 to as much as 15,000 vehicles. The intensive heavy traffic during the refugee crisis caused these roads, designed for bearing capacity of 2 tons and built using poor standards and technology in the early 1970s, to deteriorate to a critical condition. There are road sections on these routes that have lost all or most of the asphalt surfacing, decreasing the average speed to 25-30 km/hour, and even lower for the obsolete vehicle fleet during bad weather conditions. The present traffic composition remains heavy.

The project will include the following components:

Emergency Road Repair Works to restore 221 km of the following sections of the national road network to serviceable condition - Berat-Corovode Section, Fushe Kruje-Mamurras-Milot Section, Q. Qele-Fushe Arrez Section, Fushe Arrez-Kukes Section, and Kukes-Morin Section;

Laboratory equipment needed for improved quality control, office, and environmental mitigation equipment, software (including financial management) and a vehicle for the project implementation unit;

Training and consultant services including project-related training, consultant services for supervision of road works, operation of the project implementation unit, project audits, preparation of the design and bidding documents for the second year program of works, preparation of the Durres-Morin Feasibility Study, preparation of the first year design and bidding documents for a follow-on project (Road Rehabilitation and Maintenance Project).

The credit will be disbursed on standard IDA terms, repayable in 40 years, including a 10-year grace period. Albania joined the Bank in 1991 and since 1992, commitments total US$495.4 million for 34 projects.