Coastal Expressway Tunnel Launched
Koper, 5 June - A key part of a new coastal expressway between Koper and Izola, the Markovec tunnel was inaugurated on Friday to end one of the country's longest infrastructural sagas and alleviate congestion on one of the busiest sections of Slovenia's short coastline.
The idea for the Markovec tunnel, whose main effect will be freeing up the local road running right along the waterfront, goes back to the 1980s, but zoning plans were not adopted before 2004 and construction did not begin before 2010 when it was supposed to be finished. Several more delays followed.
Prime Minister Miro Cerar did the ribbon cutting today, admitting that "we have waited long, too long" for the 2-km tunnel, which he labelled a "major infrastructural gain locally as well as for the entire country".
"This project, like many before it, faces a number of issues," he said, pointing to problems with contractors as well as issues with the legislation "which allows potential contractors to often delay proceedings unreasonably". He thus announced changes that will end this practice.
Cerar was also referring to the complications that followed the slow bureaucratic start of the project. It saw opposition by locals and delayed tenders, with the national motorway company DARS picking only in 2008 a group of Italian companies headed by Vidoni as the contractor.
Successful appeals were filed by Slovenian rivals SCT and Primorje, followed by more appeals and a decision in December 2009 to give the project to CPM from Maribor along with Austria's Alpine Bau.
Following CPM's collapse, Alpine Bau continued on its own in 2011 to also end up in receivership in 2013. CVP inženiring, Grafist and Hipox were entrusted with finishing the job.
Meanwhile, taking the spotlight in recent months has been the dispute over the need to have toll stickers to use the tunnel.
In exchange for accepting the fact that the new 5-km expressway section will be tolled, the communities of Koper, Izola and Piran will take possession of the coastal road, which they intend to shut down.
The government announced that the management of the coastal road will be in the domain of all three municipalities, and that the state will not interfere.
The existing road is perched on a narrow flat strip at the foot of a steep hill, leaving little space for recreation.
There is a narrow walkway along the road popular among cyclists and joggers, but in summer the road is so congested that the coastal strip is largely abandoned.
The freeing up of the road is expected to change this, but locals fear that drivers without motorway toll stickers will reroute to the small roads over the tunnel hill, putting the streets and the residents under unsustainable stress.
Cerar said that the job was not finished with the completion of the tunnel, announcing activities to complete other important road connections on the coast that would eliminate congestions during the tourist season and boost the quality of life of the local communities.
The prime minister is happy that the completion of the expressway and the tunnel enabled the old coastal road to be handed out to the municipal authorities in Koper and Izola.
"This way the local communities will gain around ten kilometres of the coast," he said, adding that the municipalities could now realise their plans for the development of the waterfront.
Cerar noted that a number of infrastructural projects were under way, adding that the construction of the missing motorway section between Draženci and Gruškovje in NE Slovenia was about to start, and expectedly be competed before the summer season in 2018.