Works to begin expanding the Jounieh highway will begin within weeks, after two Lebanese companies won tenders Wednesday to carry out the project, an adviser to the president told The Daily Star.
The project would expand the 10.2-kilometer stretch of highway between Nahr al-Kalb and Tabarja by one lane on each side, making three lanes each way, and would also add a service lane that would be separated from the main highway.
“It will be a real highway, not like the one we have now, which is a highway only in name,” said Antoine Souaid, an engineering adviser to President Michel Aoun.
The project is set to take 2 1/2 years to complete, with works being undertaken 24/7. Souaid said alternate routes would be secured to facilitate the movement of traffic during the construction process, but that traffic would undoubtedly increase during that period.
The expansion project dates back to 2006, but saw repeated delays during as the country was immersed in successive conflicts and political crises. But in the past couple of years, it has moved forward, with the government expropriating the land necessary to construct the expanded highway, and issuing tenders last summer.
The assessments of the bids concluded and contracts were awarded Wednesday to two Lebanese companies in a joint venture: Consolidated Engineering and Trading and A.R. Hourie Enterprises. They won the bid with an offer carrying a price tag of around 47 million euros ($52 million). The European Investment Bank had provided the Lebanese government with a 75 million euro loan for the project. Souaid said that the transparent and competitive tender process, carried out by the Council for Development and Reconstruction and overseen by the EIB, had seen the price lowered substantially.
Sixteen companies had put forward bids, with nine meeting specifications. Now, the EIB will have to give its final approval before the CDR gives the order to begin work.
While the expansion project should ease traffic congestion once complete, there are two other projects necessary to more sustainably solve the traffic issue.
The first, recently approved by Parliament, would create 40 kilometers of dedicated “rapid transit” bus lanes between the town of Tabarja and Downtown Beirut, and provide a fleet of 120 rapid transit buses as well as 250 “feeder buses” operating between main bus stations and outlying areas. The project aims to decrease the commute time from Tabarja to Beirut’s Charles Helou station at peak morning hours from 75 to 45 minutes.
Souaid said that the project, which would see bus lanes erected on bridges on top of the widened Jounieh highway, was being taken into consideration during the expansion project.
The adviser said another part of the solution was a 19-kilometer highway project between Dbayeh and Okaibeh, passing through Adma, Aintoura and Jeita.
That project is still before the Higher Council for Privatization and has not yet been endorsed by Cabinet, and so its completion date remains uncertain, he said.
The Daily Star