High-tech link leads to appalling roads

RIO-ANTIRIO BRIDGE: A few days ago, 80 percent of work on the bridge was finished with the completion of construction on pylon M3, from which the national flag is already flying to mark yet another of the many milestones reached since 1999. At the moment, work is in progress to raise the deck of the bridge so that it is ready by November to link the two pylons on the Antirio side. According to estimates, the completed bridge will service daily traffic of about 10,000 vehicles. Studies show that the increase in traffic in the area compared to 1993, when the average was 7,000 vehicles daily, will be further boosted by a rise in local traffic, since Achaia and Aitoloakarnania will virtually become a single region once there are no more delays caused by queues for the ferry or bad weather. Coastal land values are also expected to rise. As for the toll fees, they have not yet been determined. Ferry boat tickets currently cost 7.70 euros and, according to estimates, the toll fee should not be more than 30 percent of the ticket price. The operating contract sets maximum fees which the construction consortium may set. The consortium may also determine its own toll policy, encouraging the use of the bridge for local traffic with season tickets. Meanwhile, once the bridge has opened for business, some of the ferries currently operating will continue to make the crossing. The consortium will have a maximum of 42 years to operate the bridge as of the date the contract came into effect. Construction costs are estimated at 664.1 million euros, design and supervision cost 16 million, operating costs come to 50.2 million euros and financial expenditure 72.4 million, bringing total costs to 802.7 million euros. PATRAS – CORINTH HIGHWAY: The only safe stretch of highway between the two Peloponnesian cities of Corinth and Patras is the 18 kilometers of the Patras ring road that took 18 years to build and is itself not without problems (mainly the lack of roads linking it to the city and the new port currently under construction). Although the latter will not be ready by 2004, cruise ships will be able to dock. Drivers entering the ring road but who want to go into town will face problems because of the lack of signs and the narrow roads that lead into the city. A short while ago, a bus carrying Italian tourists lost its way and found itself in the village of Saravali, in the foothills of Mount Panachaikos, instead of the city center. The Patras-Corinth highway is extremely hazardous, as it is narrow in many places and its surface is uneven. Many stretches do not have a dividing barrier, even though the highway is used by a large number of trucks going to and from the ports of Patras and Kyllini, the Rio-Antirio ferry link and the prefecture of Ileia. Most traffic accidents are head-on collisions caused by overtaking vehicles. An idea of the number of deaths on this particular highway is evident in a count of roadside shrines conducted by the former regional governor of western Greece, Dimitris Aivalis. On the 93 kilometers between Rio and Corinth where there is no dividing barrier, he recorded 203 shrines, erected on the sites of fatal accidents by the victims’ relatives. Anyone who wants people to come to the Olympics via the port of Patras obviously has ignored these facts. Visitors expecting to find a normal highway will find themselves traveling along an extremely dangerous road. Most will need to have luck on their side to avoid an accident. The PATHE (Patras-Thessaloniki) road axis in effect has nothing to do with the first two letters of the acronym – or at least the section as far as Corinth. Occasional proclamations of plans to widen the road and make it safer are still on the drawing board. PATRAS – PYRGOS HIGHWAY: This highway, which leads to Ancient Olympia, is in an even worse condition. Over the some 90 kilometers between Patras and Pyrgos, there are not only no dividing barriers but other hazards such as tractors or other agricultural equipment can suddenly appear up ahead, moving at a snail’s pace. The road is not a closed highway but intersects a number of other roads, even farm tracks, as the prefecture of Ileia consists mainly of agricultural land. The highway is not only dangerous but dirty, a fact that is clear to all visitors to Ancient Olympia. In a survey carried out by the Union of Greek Tourist Guides on the state of the roads leading to famous archaeological sites, the Patras-Pyrgos highway was 14th out of the 16 with regard to cleanliness.

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