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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bids Sought for Express Ring Road

The government is seeking bids for designing and building a $3.1 billion expressway around St. Petersburg to relieve congestion and ease trade with Baltic and Scandinavian countries, Transportation Ministry spokesman Timur Khikmatov said Thursday.

The Western Express Ring Road will stretch 46 kilometers, have between six and eight lanes and handle 105,000 vehicles per day when completed in 2010, Khikmatov said.

"The project has already attracted interest from Russian companies and investors in other countries such as France and China,'' Khikmatov said, declining to identify the companies.

An eight-year, oil-fueled economic boom is raising incomes and demand for foreign goods.

President Vladimir Putin has said the poor state of the national highway system is a drag on the economy, with losses equal to 6 percent of annual gross domestic product.

Only 37 percent of all federal roads and 24 percent of regional roads meet safety standards and more than one-fourth of the country's highways that are part of international transport corridors need to be upgraded, according to government data.

The country has appropriated about $1 billion in the federal budget for the Western Express project and is seeking companies to fund most of the rest, an investment that will be recouped from a toll charged to motorists and transport companies, Khikmatov said.

The deadline for submitting bids is Jan. 15, said Galina Bronnikova, a spokeswoman for the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, which is overseeing the project.