By Ali Murat Alhas
ANKARA (AA) – Turkey’s president on Sunday cut the ribbon on a 426-kilometer (264-mile) mega-highway project between the coastal cities of Istanbul and Izmir, a project that will slash the travel time between the metropolises by more than half.
“Tourism, trade, and industry will gain momentum and [this highway] will significantly contribute to our country,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the opening ceremony, held in the Bursa province.
Erdogan said as the project was financed by the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) model, the Turkish state spent not a single cent on the $11 billion project, which was financed by a joint venture group.
Calling the highway “a lucrative and profitable project,” he said the joint venture group would run the highway for a little over 22 years.
Turkish drivers will save hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of fuel and thousands of hours in driving time thanks to the Istanbul-Izmir highway, as it cuts the travel distance by some 100 km (62 mi).
By speeding up a major national artery, the new highway should also boost tourism and trade.
The mega-project -- linking Turkey’s largest city by population, Istanbul, to its third-largest city, Izmir, on the Aegean coast -- cuts the travel time between the two from eight-and-a-half hours to about three-and-a-half hours.