Work is well underway on a new road and tunnel project, which will provide an improved connection between the Colombian city of Medellin and its airport. The new link will measure 24km long in all and the construction work is expected to cost over US$342 million, with completion due at the end of 2018. The project is known overall as the Oriente Tunnel, with the work being carried out as a concession by Concesion Tunel Aburrá-Oriente. The project comprises four sections in all. These are the 786m Seminario Tunnel, the 4.6km Seminario-Portal Occidental route, the 1.4km Cerro el Chivo overpass (with nine bridges) and the 8.2km Santa Elena Tunnel. This last joins with the Sajonia ring road, which itself connects with the Rionegro airport through the Guarne-Llanogrande road.
Tunnels are needed on the route because a 2,450m high mountain lies between Medellin and the Rionegro district in San Nicolás valley, where the Jose Maria Córdova International Airport is located. Both Medellin and the airport are situated in the Department of Antioquia. The airport is the second largest in Colombia after that serving the capital Bogota and is currently undergoing expansion to boost capacity. Jose Maria Córdova International Airport originally opened to flights in 1985, taking over from a much smaller facility in Medellin itself, which could not be expanded due to limited space and that was subsequently closed to air traffic.