Attiki Odos extension to relieve Athens commuters, but at a price

As of December Attiki Odos will be 24 kilometers (15 miles) longer, providing a solution to the serious problem of road access to the Peloponnese for Attica residents. At the same time, however, higher tolls will raise the price of access for most of them. Construction work is entering the final stages. After some test runs are held, the new section will be delivered, creating a link between Elefsina and the Eleftherios Venizelos Airport at Spata. Transportation experts estimate that completion of this section of the road will significantly ease traffic going from Attica toward Corinth and from the Athens-Lamia highway toward Athens, Corinth and Patras. Substantial savings in fuel are also expected, given the amount of time it currently takes just to reach the Elefsina section, especially on holidays when people leave town en masse. The benefits are also expected to extend to other parts of Attica which are directly or indirectly connected with the Athens-Corinth road. Apart from freeing up traffic going to Corinth via Haidari, Aspropyrgos and Elefsina, the extension of Attiki Odos should benefit drivers on Kifissias and Mesogeion avenues (for those traveling from the northern suburbs), Kifissou and Athinon avenues, and Petrou Ralli, Iera Odos and Constantinopoleos Street. Following completion of the Metamorphosis-Elefsina section, all that remains to finalize the project and create the optimal connection of Elefsina, the highways and Alimos-Katehaki Avenue is the delivery in spring 2004 of the Doukissis Plakentias split-level interchange. The new section will have eight interchanges, the most important of which is the Elefsina-Thiva junction, which is already visible to drivers passing by. It will absorb most of the traffic heading from Corinth to Athens and at the same time will serve vehicles traveling via Attiki Odos from Athens to the highway. The other eight interchanges are Acharnon, Liossion (Filis Avenue), Aegaleo, Thriasiou (link to Aegaleo ring road), Aspropyrgou, Ag. Louka and Magoulas. The company that manages Attiki Odos estimates that an average of more than 150,000 vehicles a day will use the whole road. This rise in traffic will coincide with another rise, this time in the price of tolls, which will increase from 1.80 to 2.50 euros for a passenger vehicle, according to sources in the company and the construction consortium. However, the Public Works Ministry is aiming to limit the increase (to around 2.20-2.30 euros), at least until the Olympic Games are over. The extension of the road and the speed it offers compared with the only alternative route (through Haidari and Aspropygros) make the tolls seem more reasonable. The standard toll price (as stipulated in the contract between the government and the contractors) is 3 euros, which Attiki Odos tolls will rise to in a year from now.