Expensive and Complex Croatian Road Project Grinds to Halt, Again

Lauren Simmonds

One of the largest Croatian strategic infrastructure projects, the construction of the state road 403 between the Škurinje junction and the Port of Rijeka, which is co-financed by the European Union with 85 percent of its funding, has been stopped, yet again.

As Novac/Kresimir Zabec writes on the 4th of November, 2019, according to what is currently unofficial information, the Jurcon Projekt company from Zagreb has filed an appeal for the tender for the construction of this (otherwise most expensive Croatian road) and thus stopped the implementation of the project until further notice. It is a 2997 meter long road with an estimated construction value of 461 million kuna, while the value of the total project is 520 million kuna. Therefore, the estimated cost of constructing one kilometre of this road is 153 million kuna or about 20 million euros.

The complaint was filed two weeks after the State Commission for the Control of Public Procurement Procedures suspended the proceedings following the complaint of a little-known Nekretnine Medulin from Rijeka. The project’s investor, Croatian Roads (Hrvatske Ceste), announced the closure of the bidding process on October the 31st, just hours after the announcement that bids would be opened on November the 14th. In construction circles, this information has caused quite a surprise considering that Jurcon Projekt is a design company, and they’ve filed an appeal for a construction tender. Quite soon after, information was circulating unofficially that in this case, it was actually a complaint on behalf of another larger company.

According to the information available, in this case, a large Italian construction company Rizzani de Eccher is allegedly the one behind the appeal. People in the know seem to have concluded that the Italian company wants to extend the bidding process as they still have time to put together a quality offer for this complex project.

The ”games” surrounding this tender began on September the 27th, when Nekretnine Medulin, owned by two Russian nationals, filed an appeal, just days before the deadline for opening bids. Just days later, DKOM’s lawyer Boris Šikanjić filed a motion to dismiss Nekretnine Medulin.

However, as the submission did not include a valid power of attorney, DKOM requested that document. It took the company eight days to submit the document, so DKOM only suspended the procedure on October the 15th.

According to Croatian law, the tender process in such cases must be extended for as long as it was stopped due to appeals, and the opening of offers was postponed until November the 14th.

Following a new appeal, it is questionable whether or not offers will be opened at all this year. DKOM must resolve all of the appeals about strategic projects within a one month period. However, this deadline begins to run only after they receive all the documentation from the one who lodged the appeal and the investor, and not from the day the appeal was filed. Therefore, it isn’t unrealistic for bids to stay open until January next year, a whole eight months after the announcement of the tender. Of course, only if there are no appeals again.

This project is of strategic importance to Croatia as it will connect the newly built container terminal, Zagrebačka obala, in the Port of Rijeka with the Rijeka – Zagreb motorway. The construction of this road, according to all of the listed criteria, is a very demanding construction project.

Namely, it passes through a dense residential area of ​​Rijeka, and above the tunnel are four fourteen-story skyscrapers, and there are between 105 and 110 apartments in each skyscraper.

In addition to these skyscrapers, there are several smaller residential buildings along the tunnel route. The future contractor will drill a tunnel just below these skyscrapers and other residential buildings. As the tunnel vault to the foot of the building is about 30 metres away, the future contractor will need to apply special drilling and tunneling techniques to prevent the collapse of the ground.

As many as eight variants were considered in the design of this road route and this was chosen as the most favourable one of all. Those in the know claim that, given the configuration of the terrain, the construction of tunnels under this heavily populated area in Rijeka is not unusual and there are several such facilities in the city. However, this tunnel is specific because of its length and the number of dwellings below which it will pass. In addition to the tunnels, two viaducts, one underpass and one overpass will be built on the route. The deadline for the construction of this road is 30 months.

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