The tender for the construction of the major bridge should be completed this autumn.
On the day when the European Commission officially confirmed that the Pelješac Bridge project would be financed by an EU grant in the amount of 357 million euros, Transport Minister Oleg Butković discussed some of the projects which have been launched or could be initiated with European funds in an interview, reports Dubrovački Vjesnik on June 12, 2017.
The Pelješac Bridge will connect the mainland with the Pelješac peninsula and in that way connect the southernmost part of Croatia around Dubrovnik with the rest of the country.
The government has finally found the money for the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, and now it is more realistic that it will be built.
Last year we filed the so-called Major Project of Road Connection with Southern Dalmatia, which includes the construction of the Pelješac Bridge. In recent days, we have received a positive reply. I would say that this is the most important decision with regards to infrastructure projects in the last ten years because we know how important the Pelješac Bridge is. The total value of the project is 420 million euros, of which 357 million euros, or 85 percent, will be covered by the grant. The Croatian Roads public company, which is the investor, is currently performing the second stage of the tender for contractors, which is open until mid-July. We expect the tender to be decided by autumn and then we should start building the largest infrastructure project in Croatia.
The construction of the bridge has already started once, but it was never completed. Can you now promise that the construction will begin and that it will be finalised?
Those were the times when the project was not financially covered. This decision of the European Commission confirms that we have secured 85 percent of the funds, and the remaining 15 percent will be secured from the state budget. Since the government made the decision to support this project two months ago, all funding decisions have been made. What remains for us is to select contractors, and now, no one can stop the construction of the Pelješac Bridge, which will be completed by 2022.
When looking at the initial and the current project of the bridge, which is more appealing to you?
The initial plan was more attractive. It had the contours of a grand project, with two lines in both directions. This is, however, a more rational option. The decision to rationalise the project was reasonable and necessary. However, this planned bridge is also very representative, and it will be one of the five largest and most beautiful bridges in Europe.
There is criticism that all funds from the EU operational plan intended for road construction in Croatia will be spent on the Pelješac Bridge, and that other road construction projects will not be able to be co-financed from EU funds.
The fact is that all funds intended for the road sector will be spent on the Pelješac Bridge. However, there are also funds in the same program for investing in increasing road traffic safety. We are in discussions with the European Commission to approve some other projects in the road sector in this programming period. Since we do not have so many projects in other parts of the operational program, there is a possibility to transfer some of the funds. For example, in the railroad sector, although there are also some projects there, there will be room for transfer of assets because that sector has more money that is needed.
Given the construction of the Pelješac Bridge project, is there reason to continue with the building of the motorway towards Dubrovnik?
Absolutely, yes. We are interested in continuing the building of the Adriatic-Ionian Motorway and its connection with Montenegro. The Pelješac Bridge connects Croatian territory, but there remains the need for the construction of the Adriatic-Ionian Motorway. However, one should consider the fact that Croatia is over-indebted. At this point, our motorway debt amounts to around 5.2 billion euros. There is a need to be rational and use the possibility of financing this section, as well as some others, only from EU funds. But first, we have to wait for the Pelješac Bridge project to start.