NEWS

Souflias puts foot down on roads

A project to build 80 kilometers of new roads in Attica that is set to cost almost 2 billion euros will go ahead, Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias said yesterday, insisting that the scheme will be environmentally friendly. Undeterred by the insistence by the Athens Bar Association and the Technical Chamber of Greece’s intention to take legal action to block the construction, Souflias announced the launch of a tender for the first phase of the project. He said that the tender should be completed in December, provided there are no appeals, and that construction will begin next year with the project intended to be finished by 2015. When Souflias first outlined the road building project last year, the cost was estimated at 1.2 billion euros but this has now risen to 1.8 billion. This money will mainly go toward extending the Attiki Odos by 71.6 kilometers. This work will consist of four separate projects: the extension of the Mount Hymettus ring road toward the southern Athens suburb of Helleniko; the construction of a 4-kilometer tunnel through Mount Hymmetus in eastern Athens; the extension of the highway toward Aghia Marina, southeast of Athens, and the extension of the road from the Stavros junction to the port of Rafina, northeast of Athens. Drivers using these new sections of the road will have to pay a charge per kilometer, ranging from 0.15 to 0.30 euros, according to the part of the highway they have used. This means that a journey from the Mesogeia area, east of Athens, to Rafina could cost as much as 3.70 euros. Souflias rejected suggestions that the project would cause damage to the environment, arguing that it would actually cut pollution by reducing the amount of cars in the center of Athens. He also said that 350,000 new trees would be planted as part of the project and rejected objections about the environmental damage the construction would cause. «I imagine that they have finished high school and know that the 350,000 trees we plan to plant are more than the few hundred that will be cut down,» he said of the Council of State judges that will have to rule on the appeals against the project.