Georgia improves national road system, locals delighted

Georgia plans to reduce travel time by improving 200 km of local roads., 17 Mar 2015 - 19:05, Tbilisi,Georgia

Hundreds of kilometres of main highways and rural roads throughout Georgia are being improved in a bid to better connect cities and villages and establish a more modern road network.

The World Bank Group has offered vital financial aid through its Secondary and Local Roads project, in a bid to spur growth and diversify the Georgian economy.

Work in Georgia was currently underway to improve 200 km of local roads, which would reduce travel time by about 20 percent on average. Some road upgrades have already been completed while others are still to start.

About 150,000 Georgians were regular users of the already improved roads, which were designed to be safer for drivers and pedestrians.

Rural Georgians said they appreciated the upgrades, and they had noticed a difference in the volume of traffic that moved through their villages and towns. In this respect, residents of Sazano village in western Georgia said new traffic signs recently installed made them feel "safer”.

The World Bank Group said road safety across Georgia was improving but the country still lagged behind its more developed neighbours.

Statistics revealed Georgia’s roads-related deaths was four times higher than in the best performing countries. Laws requiring front seatbelt use, stricter laws on drink driving, and improvements to roads and engineering standards have helped, but traffic volume continued to grow and this contributed to more accidents on local roads. Without taking action, experts believed deaths on Georgian roads were likely to increase, stated the World Bank Group.

"Safety components are present in all our projects,” explained Irakli Litanishvili, deputy chairman of the Roads Department of Georgia.

"During the project design, we carry out a safety audit. As you know, improved roads increases the speed of vehicle movement and in this context adequate traffic safety measures need to be implemented,” he added.

New pedestrian crosswalks, road signs and speed limits were some of the methods introduced to help reduce the number of road related deaths.

School students crossing the newly opened road section. Sazano Village, Georgia.

On another note, the Government hoped the country’s improved roads would boost economic growth. Similarly, the World Bank Group noted the safer and faster movement of goods and people would help rural Georgians access new markets and opportunities.

Eka Laliashvili of the Georgia Alliance for Safe Roads said improvements to local roads would help spread prosperity throughout the country.

"Implementation of such projects in the regions is very important because traffic is more or less streamlined in the capital and drivers and pedestrians are more or less informed. Therefore putting more emphasis on regions is important,” she said.

Vazha Panchulidze, the chairman of the country’s roads department, said the World Bank Group was offering invaluable support to Georgia as it worked to improve the country’s road network.

"We certainly have special support from the World Bank which is evidenced in the projects and cooperation that we have had with the Bank for several decades. We have managed to rehabilitate many secondary and local roads through these programs and financing,” he added.

Initially Georgia invested in developing its strategic roads network, including the main East-West highway. Now, the focus was now on improving rural roads that will tie the country together and provide a more modern transportation system.