Bechtel and joint-venture partner Enka put Albania in the fast lane in 2010 with the completion and opening of a $535 million modern motorway.
The 37-mile (61-kilometer), four-lane highway stretches from the town of Rrëshen, in the heart of the country, up to the northeastern village of Kalimash. The project is the central leg of a 106-mile (171-kilometer) highway traversing the country from the Adriatic Sea up to the northeastern border with Kosovo. The new roadway cuts travel time along the route from six to two hours, boosting coastal trade and northeast tourism.
The motorway also provides a vital connection within Albania and across the region, linking markets to the Adriatic port of Durres and contributing to economic growth as Albania prepares for accession to the European Union.
The Albanian motorway is one of the largest ever-infrastructure projects in the country and presented many engineering challenges because of geological complexities in the region and the fast-track construction schedule. The motorway includes a 3.4 mile (5.5 km) twin bore tunnel and 29 bridges built in a mountainous, rocky region.
During construction, the project was the largest employer in the area, with Albanians accounting for two thirds of the workforce.
Bechtel and Enka have partnered on two other Eastern European roadways: a 258-mile (415-kilometer) motorway currently under construction in Romania, and a 124-mile (200-kilometer) highway in Croatia.
Respect for the local community and environment were among the top concerns on the Albania Motorway project. The Bechtel-Enka joint venture took full advantage of Albanian expertise, labor, materials, and services. Thinking locally makes good environmental as well as business sense, and leaves a positive legacy of economic growth and a stronger skills base in the region.
The joint venture is partnered with authorities in the nearby towns of Rrëshen, Reps, Klos, and Kukës, as well as with employment officials in the capital of Tirana, to recruit locals as the project gears up to employ a peak of 4,500.
Minimizing the project’s carbon footprint was a constant priority. Instead of relying on diesel generators, the camps at Reps, Thirrë, and Kukës are now hooked up to the country’s national hydro-powered electricity grid. Fuel consumption was cut dramatically and carbon dioxide emissions dropped by more than 613,000 pounds (278,000 kilograms) per month.
The connection required reconstruction and upgrades to the local grid. That made Bechtel-Enka the largest customer of the local utility company, further supporting the local economy.