The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is set to provide a $415m loan to Georgia for the North-South Corridor, as part of a wider government programme that aims to improve the country’s transport network.

The first in a series of upgrades planned for the North-South Corridor is the Kvesheti–Kobi Road Project.

Intersecting with the East-West Highway to the north of Tbilisi, the corridor, which is a vital route for Georgia, Armenia, and regional trading partners, also provides access to the shortest link connecting Central Asia with Europe and East Asia.

A 23km bypass will be built between the towns of Kvesheti and Kobi, passing through the Caucasus Mountains in the northeast of Georgia.

The bypass will follow a new upgrade through the Khada Valley, which includes engineering features such as Georgia’s 9km-long tunnel and an arch bridge spanning across the Khadistskali River.

ADB Central and West Asia director general Werner Liepach said: “A high-quality road network is essential for the growth and development of Georgia, which is located at the centre of transit and trade routes linking Europe and Asia.

“The new bypass road will greatly improve the North-South Corridor and help enhance trade and regional connectivity, as well as increase the number of visitors in the region, which is home to world-class natural and cultural heritage assets.”

The total cost of the project is estimated to be $558.6m, with $60m provided by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and $83.6m from the Government of Georgia.

The project will require five tunnels at a total length of 11km, and six bridges at a total length of 1.6km.

ADB Central and West Asia transport specialist Kamel Bouhmad said: “The bypass and connecting roads will provide these communities with year-round access to hospitals, schools and other vital services.”

Road construction is expected to commence next year.