By Arife Yildiz Unal
ANKARA (AA) - This weekend, travel between two of Turkey’s largest cities is due to be cut in half, going from over eight hours to just three-and-a-half, in a gala ribbon-cutting set for Sunday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will inaugurate the new highway spanning 192 kilometers connecting the way from Istanbul, Turkey’s most populous city, and Izmir, a metropolis on the Aegean coast.
Cahit Turan, minister of transport and infrastructure, told Anadolu Agency that with this Sunday’s opening, the Istanbul-Izmir Highway -- first launched in 2010 -- would be one of Turkey’s main transport arteries, connecting the Marmara region to the Aegean, western Mediterranean, and western Anatolia regions.
Telling how the Osmangazi Bridge, a key plank of the project, opened in 2016, he said the bridge cut one-and-a-half hours from the travel time.
Cutting the Istanbul-Izmir travel time to less than half will save travelers both time and money, he said.
Turan added that the highway would ease commercial goods moving in, out, and throughout Turkey.
The project’s $7 billion price tag was paid by the company which will operate the highway for an unspecified period of time, and no public funds were used for the construction process.
The mega-project provided jobs to some 5,000 people in construction, and there will be about 1,000 jobs in continued maintenance and operational services.
*Writing by Ali Murat Alhas