Bulgaria withdraws application form for Struma Motorway through Kresna Gorge but does not abandon project

Bulgaria withdraws the application form for the construction of the Struma Motorway through the Kresna Gorge, but continues to regard the project as a priority and does not abandon it. The decision does not stop it, but accelerates the team work of all institutions involved in extending the only bottleneck along the border to Greece. Today, the Bulgarian side informed the European Commission of its decision to withdraw the application form for Lot 3.2 funding from the EU Cohesion Fund, which was submitted for approval on 9 August 2019. The institutions will continue working on the preparation of the application form in view of the priorities in the field on the ecology of the new European Commission, which has already presented its European Green Deal.

The decision was made after an in-depth analysis, numerous expert talks and a special opinion poll, which categorically defines the completion of the Struma Motorway through the Kresna Gorge as extremely important for road safety.

The Bulgarian side has always been aware of the difficulties associated with nature conservation in this area, as well as the need to find a balanced solution that meets environmental and transport objectives. Due to the ecologically sensitive protected area in which the section between Krupnik and Kresna is located, the best solutions for its implementation have always been sought, and in the course of preparation over the years many options were considered for the implementation of the section of Struma Motorway through Kresna Gorge. On the basis of all the studies carried out, the East Option G 10,50 chosen most meets the technical, socio-economic and environmental requirements. However, in order to be as precise as possible about the impacts of the project on the species and habitats subject to conservation in the gorge, the state will proceed to setting specific conservation goals and measures. To reduce the impact on Natura 2000 sites of the existing E-79 Road, the Road Infrastructure Agency is committed to implementing, by the end of 2020, a series of mitigation measures, namely: modification of existing drains, installation of a bilaterally located network in the the banquet of the road, the installation of 4-meter-high knit bird nets on the sidewalks of large facilities. To improve road safety, the possibility of establishing a video surveillance system and a system for informing and redirecting traffic on bypass roads and analyzing it for safe handling will be analyzed, as well as improving the organization of traffic in the Kresna Gorge.

At the request of the Road Infrastructure Agency in December, the Trend Research Center conducted a national representative sociological survey. For 78% of the respondents, "the section through the Kresna Gorge is dangerous, and the construction of the motorway will increase the safety of the passengers". For 70% of respondents the construction of the motorway is important for reducing travel time. 18% of Bulgarians are of the opinion that Struma Motorway should be completed, although it passes through a protected zone, and the highest percentage - 40% believe that the motorway should be completed, but with full guarantee for the protection of biodiversity. 13% share the opinion that Struma Motorway should not be completed because it passes through protected territories. Only 5% of respondents believe that the motorway has to be completed by another route, even if it is more expensive to build and maintain it afterwards.