The $5bn North Marmara Highway Project in Turkey has attracted 18 bidders.

The development involves the construction of a 414 km highway, connecting Adapazari on the Asian side of the Marmara region to the Tekirdag district on the European side. The interested bidders include four Japanese firms, two Russian firms, and one firm each from Spain, Austria, and Italy. The Turkish Ministry of Transport had earlier postponed the tender submission date till 10 January from 23 August 2011 following the requests of the interested bidders.

The project also involves construction of third bridge, the Bosphorus bridge over the Istanbul Strait. Spanning 1,275m the suspension bridge, will be built between Garipce in the European side of the city, and Poyraz in the Asian side on a build-pperate-transfer basis

Once complete, the bridge will connect a highway starting in Kinali, in the western province of Tekirdag, with another from Pasakoy on Istanbul’s Asian side, which will extend to Gebze in Kocaeli and connect to the Izmir highway.

The winning bidder will operate the project for 20 years after completion, which is expected to take five years. Turkey has already built two bridges across the Bosphorus, the narrow natural channel that links the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmora and the Mediterranean, which also splits Istanbul in half.

The first bridge was built by an Anglo-German consortium in 1973, with HOCHTIEF coordinating the work, while the second bridge opened in 1988.

Last year, Turkey awarded another bridge project worth $6.5bn to a consortium between Japanese company IHI and Turkey-based company Itochu to construct a 3km gulf suspension bridge that would shorten the way between Istanbul and Izmir. The suspension bridge, which is scheduled for completion in 2015, will be the first phase of a 420km motorway stretching from the north western province of Izmit to Izmir, Turkey’s third biggest city in the west.

The development will reduce the journey time between Istanbul to Izmir to less than four hours from the current eight to ten hours, as well as shorten the current state highway by 140km. The new road’s route will start at the TEM motorway in the Gebze-Dilovasi region and connect to the Gebze-Orhangazi-Izmir motorway.