Athens road, ail projects at the finish

Two major road projects will be opened for use today, initiating a hectic period of similar inaugurations of transport projects that will culminate in the opening of the Rio-Antirio bridge to traffic on August 12, a day before the Olympic Games’ opening ceremony. The schedule, including the early opening of the Rio-Antirio bridge, was announced yesterday by Environment and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias. Souflias said that the bridge would be ready to accept traffic on August 12, almost two months ahead of schedule. The bridge (which has a total length of 2,883 meters, with 2,256 meters of it representing the world’s longest cable-stayed suspended deck in five spans) will link the western Peloponnese with central Greece and will greatly speed up connections with western and northwestern Greece. Tolls for passenger cars will be 10 euros, but economy-minded drivers will still be able to use ferries. The Olympic Flame will cross the bridge on August 8. Targeting some of his colleagues who have said that only the presence of the current conservative government, elected on March 7, allowed these projects to be completed on time, Souflias remarked that «it would be stupid and immoral to claim the projects were made by the (conservatives). Citizens know that the projects began and were to a large extent pursued under (the Socialist government) and completed by our efforts.» Today, a 3-kilometer (1.8-mile) extension to the Kifissou Avenue ending at a major interchange at Neo Faliron will open to traffic by noon. This is expected to provide much easier access to the Athens-Thessaloniki national highway and ease congestion in southwestern Athens. Also today, the Kymis Avenue extension will open, providing a fast link from the Olympic Village to the main Olympic complex. During the weekend, subway stations at Halandri and Doukissis Plakentias will open, extending Line 3 of the Athens Metro. Early next month, the line will extend to the airport. On Monday the marathon route will be opened, followed by part of the Athens-Corinth highway on July 29.