Rehabilitation of the 52km highway through Georgia’s Rikoti Pass should be finished by 2023, according to the government.
Stage work to widen the highway into four lanes has underway for several years, including upgrading the 1.7km-long main Rikoti Pass Tunnel. The speed limit should dramatically increase, from around 60kph in places to 120kph along the route.
Rikoti Pass Tunnel, carved out in 1982, is in the southern portion of the Likhi Range, a spur of the Greater Caucasus mountains which divides Georgia into its western and eastern parts. The Tbilisi-Kutaisi highway connects the capital city Tbilisi, population around 1.5 million, with Kutaisi, around 220km west of the capital and with a population of 150,000.
Sections of the old but renovated two-lane highway are being twinned to allow for a motor-type of road through the pass. Total cost of the entire project is around €715 million.
The Rikoti Pass Tunnel is a critical link on the East West Highway E-60 (Senaki-Tbilisi-Red Bridge) – the pass is the only all-weather route because the alternate bypass road is over mountainous terrain and often closed due to snow or landslides.
In September, the ministry of economic development announced a tender for a
20-year toll concession of the Rikoti Pass Tunnel, that included development of 18,750m² of land to accommodate any toll system put in place.
Last July, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the bank of the European Union, announced that it had provided an additional €106.7 million to the government of Georgia for upgrades of the E-60. The loan will finance two upgrades. One of the upgrades is along the 30km-long section between Algeti and Sadakhlo - extending the highway to the border with Armenia. The other upgrade is to the 32 km-long section between Rustavi and the Red Bridge – extending the road to the border with Azerbaijan.