The Slovenia Times

A Land of Astonishing Achievements



The construction of the country's motorway network is a constant battle with the forces of nature. Every new kilometre built contributes enormously to relieving the difficulties of the daily migration between the country's different cities and regions. A decade ago, driving from Ljubljana to the coastline took hours although the first section of the motorway was built in 1972. The situation was even worse during the summer season when huge numbers of holidaymakers packed onto the road making it nearly impossible to make any headway at all. Although newly built motorways are gradually replacing the old local roads, the summer traffic jams are being repeated on a regular basis. Critics have constantly drawn attention to the fact that the construction of the desperately needed motorways connecting Slovenia both internally as well as to its neighbouring countries was far too slow, particularly when compared to other developing states striving towards European integration. But no one seems to have taken any heed of these warnings and construction carries on at the snail's pace set by Ministry of Transport. The Management of Settlements and Other Spatial Interventions law governs the procedures to be followed in the preparation and adoption of motorway plans. All the possible routes that a motorway could take are examined early in the planning process. After a comprehensive analysis of all the options and the selection of route, the planning process moves onto the detailed planning and design stage. Local communities, individuals and other interested parties are invited to make submissions; and it's here that negotiations with affected parties all to frequently become fierce disputes and cause unnecessarily lengthy delays as well as contributing to the reluctance of contractors to carry out their tasks. These problems resulted in Slovenia entering the European Union in rather poor shape as far as the motorways were concerned. The main route leading to/from the European border at Obrezje/Bregana was showing anything but a European face. Similar situations were to be found in many places around Slovenia, doing nothing but harm to the favourable impression that the country has been trying to make. But there was one bright spot amidst the gloom - the Crni Kal viaduct. An Architectural Masterpiece The construction of the longest and tallest viaduct in Slovenia was successfully completed at the beginning of September. It forms part of an 8-kilometre-long section of motorway crossing the most demanding landscape in Slovenia, which also incorporates the Kastelec tunnel. By the time Slovenia's motorways are finally finished, the country's tally of tunnels will be the fifth highest in Europe. The beautifully curved Crni Kal viaduct is 1,065 metres long and rests on 11 carefully designed pillars. The tallest pillar, which is as tall as a 30-storey skyscraper, towers 95 metres above the karst countryside. According to its constructor, Marjan Pipenbaher, the viaduct is not only very recognizable but it also blends into the landscape perfectly without causing any significant damage to the area's aesthetic appeal. As it will be exposed to powerful winds, particularly in winter, it has been equipped with one of the most up-to-date wind-breaking barriers currently available as well as ice detectors to prevent possible mishaps. Future roadworks In October, the 7th Slovenian Road Congress was held in Portoroz. The main topics of discussion were less concerned about the construction of the traffic infrastructure but more with the maintenance and on-going management of the roads. Besides the numerous domestic experts, the congress was also well attended by professionals from abroad, who presented their engineering achievements and visions from various points of view. There was an immense amount of information exchanged and the satisfaction of all the participants was quite apparent. Whether any of the ideas will ever be put into practice, however, remains to be seen. Anything can be achieved ... Surprisingly enough, the motorway fully connecting the Slovenian metropolis with the coastal areas was officially opened in November 2004, enabling drivers to travel between Ljubljana and Koper in around an hour. What a luxury compared to the torturous drives less than a decade ago. Furthermore, someone with obvious influence has finally realised that it is vital to make the entrance to the European Union at least a little bit more presentable than it has been because the construction of the motorway leading to and away from Slovenia's south-eastern borders with Croatia has suddenly been fast-tracked. In December last year, the last 21.5-kilometre-long section of the motorway between Drnovo and the Obrezje/Bregana border crossing was completed making access to enlarged Europe a far more pleasant experience than it was when all that could be seen upon entering Slovenia from non-European states was one big construction site. Unfortunately, the rest of the way from Drnovo to Ljubljana is still lagging a long way behind. But at least we are getting there with a bit more urgency.


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