Better and Safer Roads in Iraq will Boost Regional Trade, Save Lives and Promote Citizens Engagement

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December 19, 2013

WASHINGTON, December 19, 2013 – A new project will reduce traffic fatalities by nearly 25 percent on two transport corridors connecting Iraq to its northern, southern and western neighbors and beyond. The US$355 million Iraq Transport Corridors Project, approved by the World Bank Board of Directors today, will improve road quality and safety and promote citizens engagement, national unity and regional trade integration. It will be implemented in partnership with the government of Iraq, who will contribute US$384 million, and the Islamic Development Bank who will contribute US$217 million as a first phase.

“The project which covers the main national route will facilitate trade movement between Iraqi governorates and with neighboring countries. This will boost economic growth and lead to better service quality along the international corridors which carry most of the tradable goods,” said Ferid Belhaj, World Bank Country Director for the Mashreq Department. “Iraq has one of the highest levels of road accident fatalities in the world and the rehabilitation of the expressway will improve road safety and travel time. Commuters and residents will also be able to report on the condition of the roads using mobile phones and GPS technologies.”

Decades of war in Iraq have left the road agencies with limited human resources capacity to effectively manage the 48,000 kilometers road network. Poor maintenance has resulted in an increase in the number of traffic accidents with almost 6,000 fatalities reported in 2010. The World Health Organization estimates fatalities at double that amount. Iraq has one of the highest fatality rates in the world and the second in the region with 32 fatalities per 100,000 population in 2010. Road safety is expected to worsen even further and impose a heavy burden on the government’s ability to manage transport costs, medical care expenses, disabilities and reduced labor force participation.

The project focuses on building the capacity of national institutions to enable Iraqi staff to plan, manage implement and maintain infrastructure projects. In particular, they will be exposed to modern techniques in road management, international procurement and financial management procedures and environmental and social safeguards.

A Citizens’ Roadway Reporting System will be established whereby people in neighbouring communities will be able to provide feedback on the quality of roads and service areas. Ducts for fiber optic cables will be put in place to strengthen broadband access and people will be able to report excessive speeding and reckless driving, traffic accidents, potholes, missing guardrails, pollution, etc. This will mean real time accurate information on travel delays, road conditions and temporary road works will be available. It will also enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of road management including communication and surveillance for traffic safety monitoring and axle-load limit enforcement.

With the high number of female-headed households, women will have priority to employment opportunities at the call centers that will be established at the road agencies. Iraqi women will benefit from government-sponsored training and have access to performance-related career development opportunities. Temporary employment will be generated targeting low skilled laborers in the bottom 40 percent of the population in Iraq.

New rest stops will be built while others will be improved along the roads resulting in safer areas for small businesses, as they will not be exposed to traffic hazards. The project takes into account the needs of the 150,000 Iraqis who suffer from limited mobility by making facilities such as restaurants and lavatories in service areas along the road more accessible with special ramps for wheelchair access.

“This project is a result of close collaboration between the Iraqi Ministry of Construction and Housing, the Iraqi road agencies and the World Bank team,” said Ibrahim Dajani, World Bank Task Team Leader. “It focuses on enhancing the capacity of the institutions to manage and maintain the road networks through technical assistance.”

Project activities will be complemented by World Bank ongoing technical support towards customs reform and modernization in Iraq to promote regional integration, as well as the development of a Transport Master Plan for the country.

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