Supporting National Road Infrastructure Planning in the South Caucasus
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia are investing heavily in their transport sectors, which will help stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty. But the planning, construction, and management challenges are substantial---especially in the construction of high-grade expressways and tunnels, and in road maintenance---so countries in the South Caucasus region looked to the World Bank for assistance. In response, the Bank’s South-South Facility funded a knowledge exchange for representatives from highway departments in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan to visit road planning officials and experts in China and the Philippines---both of which had recently completed large road infrastructure projects--- to learn how the two countries had managed their complex road, tunnel, and infrastructure maintenance issues.
“The South Caucasus countries view the construction and management of an efficient road transport network as a cornerstone to their long-term economic development,” said Christopher R. Bennett, Senior Transport Specialist at the World Bank. “By showing them how other emerging economies have successfully addressed these issues it raises the awareness and understanding of what is possible and where future efforts should be directed.”
The delegates learned about planning and implementing road infrastructure at the national and provincial levels. They increased their awareness of different road planning, design, management, financing, and maintenance mechanisms, and learned how to include the private sector and performance-based contracting for road networks. The delegates improved their knowledge of alternative construction technologies and structural designs, and their ability to prioritize investments, particularly for road, tunnel, and bridge maintenance.
“Study tours like this are an excellent mechanism to sensitive [World Bank] clients to what is achievable. It was very eye opening for them to see what other developing countries could achieve,” said Mr. Bennett.
Beneficiaries / Participants
Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia are investing heavily in the transport sector. All three governments recognize the need to improve the efficiency of the highway sector and expand road networks, which they believe will stimulate economic growth in difficult economic circumstances. But planning, construction, and management challenges are substantial, especially in construction of high-grade expressways and tunnels, and in road maintenance.
China, meanwhile, has built a sophisticated national expressway network (NEN) and an extensive rural road network, projects that provide relevant planning models for other developing countries. The technical construction challenges that the Chinese overcame in mountainous terrain are an excellent source of guidance for countries that face similar difficulties. China’s experience with private sector participation in road infrastructure is also relevant to many developing economies. The Philippines has also recently carried out some large expressway projects, and their use of performance-based maintenance has yielded very important lessons for other countries.
To share the experiences of how these countries have managed the complexities of building and maintaining road networks, the World Bank’s South-South Facility funded a study tour for four representatives from each highway department in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan to visit the Chinese Ministry of Transport in Beijing, China’s Research Institute of Highways, and the provincial highway agencies in Hubei and Jiangxi provinces. They also visited key officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways in Manila, the Philippines.