Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias yesterday unveiled plans for the construction of «the largest-ever project in Greece in real and financial terms,» a 365-kilometer road axis, most of it along the Peloponnese’s northern and western coast. The project involves the reconstruction and rerouting of many parts of the highway from Elefsina, west of Athens, to Corinth, Patras, Pirgos and Tsakona, north of Kalamata. Most of the project, to be implemented under a concession agreement, will be new highway (283.7 kilometers) and the rest (81 kilometers) improvements to the existing infrastructure. It is to have two or three lanes in each direction, allowing speeds of up to 120 kilometers throughout. The 120-kilometer stretch from Corinth to Patras will be new construction and will include tunnels totaling 10.3 km, 61 bridges and 13 flyovers. The total cost is budgeted at 1.8 billion euros, three times that of the 2.3-kilometer Rio-Antirio suspension bridge near Patras, and the government will cover about 25-30 percent of it. «The proposed highway is part of the intra-European network of modern road axes and its specifications are better than those set by the European Union. The originally planned width of 24.5 meters has been extended to 26.5 meters,» said Souflias. A contractor is to be picked before the end of the year. The tender for the project was issued in 2001 and four consortia were short-listed a year later: Apion Kleos (Vinci, Hellenic Technodomiki, J&P Avax), Apollon (Athina, Crupo Dragados Hochtief, Lamda Development), Hellenic Autopistas (Citra, ACS, GEK, Terna), and Odopoiisis (Mota, Engil, Acciona, Michaniki, Themeliodomi). Souflias said the four consortia have been notified to submit final proposals by October so that the winner may be picked before the end of the year. Delivery of the project is to be phased over about six years, but will start about 20 months after the signing of the contract.