The 670km Egnatia Odos – which translates as Roman Road – motorway is one of the largest and most ambitious civil engineering projects in Europe at the current time. The motorway runs across Northern Greece from its starting-point at Igoumenitsa, across the Prefectures of Thesprotia, Ioannina, Grevena, Kozani, Imathia, Thessaloniki, Kavala, Xanthi, Rodopi and Evros, to the village of Kipi on the Turkish border. The road is a key route in developing the trans-European road network and forms an integral part of European route E90.

It follows (approximately) the route of the old Roman road, the Via Engatia. Designed to the specifications of the Trans-European Road network, it is a 24.5m-wide dual carriageway with two traffic lanes and an emergency lane in each direction. Nine major vertical axes connect the motorway with Albania, FYROM, Bulgaria and Turkey. The Egnatia Odos is served by 720km of service roads.

50% of the Egnatia Odos’s estimated €6.77bn cost was spent on only 90km of the finished route: the bridges and tunnels. Over 1,700 structures are dotted along the road, comprising 76 tunnels with a combined single bore length of 99km and 1,650 bridges with a combined length of 40km.

On top of this, there are 43 river crossings, 11 railway crossings and 50 interchanges with existing roads.

The whole project was divided into three sectors (western, central and eastern), with a construction manager and three international consultant companies overseeing the construction of each. The motorway was constructed by a consortium called Egnatia Odos.

Motorway currently open

In the period from February 2000 to early 2006, 480km of the motorway was opened and there were 165km of motorway sections to be constructed. The project was completed and opened to traffic in 2009.

In the initial stages contractors included: (designer) Doxiadis Associates, (consulting engineer) ADK Aronis Drettas Karlaftis and contractors ADK Aronis Drettas Karlaftis, AEGEK, Empedos and Themeliodomi. Egnatia Odos employed three Construction Managers (Thales-OMEK for Epirus, Parsons-Salfo for West Macedonia and Scetauroutes-ADO for Central and East Macedonia) and Kellogg-Brown & Root (KBR) as Project Management Consultants.

A total of seven sections were constructed including: Epirus 48km, Western Macedonia 31km, Central Macedonia 14km, and Eastern Macedonia and Thrace 72km. These final sections were constructed under 19 contracts budgeted at €2.098bn.

In addition, works were completed on the vertical axes (Siatista–Kristalopigi, Thessaloniki–Serres–Promahonas, Thessaloniki–Moudania and Ardanio–Ormenio) and the cross border linkage under eight contracts budgeted at €511m.

Contractors who worked on the final sections of the motorway included: Aktor, Mechanikh, Mesochoritis Bros, Atti-Kat, Klearhos G. Routsis, Alpine Mayreder Bau, Ionios, Gantzoylas, J&P Avax, Italimprese Societa’ Consortile A Responsabilita’ Limitata and Aegek.

Highway intersections and links

The finished Egnatia Odos forms the backbone of the Northern Greece’s transport system and links the country to other Balkan countries (Albania, FYROM, Bulgaria and Turkey) through nine major vertical axes. It also connects four of the country’s major ports (Igoumenitsa, Volos, Thessaloniki, Kavala and Alexandroupoli) and six of its airports (Ioannina, Kastoria, Kozani, Thessaloniki, Kavala and Alexandroupoli).

“49.5km of the entire Egnatia Odos is underground in twin-bore tunnels.”

As part of the European Intercontinental Transportation Network, the Egnatia Odos motorway is also a collector route for the Balkan and south-eastern European transport system.

Trans-European Corridors X (Berlin–Sofia–Thessalonika), IX (Helsinki–Alexandroupolis) and IV (Vienna–Belgrade–Thessalonika) all end at the Egnatia Road.

Tunnels on the Egnatia Odos motorway

49.5km of the entire Egnatia Odos is underground in a total of 69 twin-bore tunnels, a necessity that consumed 30% of the project’s total cost. The majority of the tunnels were bored with the rest (only 4.5%) constructed using the cut and cover method. Of the 76, only 15 are longer than 800m with the longest (the Driskos Twin-Bore Tunnel) measuring 4.7km. Arcadis constructed the 800m T8 tunnel.

Most of the tunnels are located in Epirus and in Central and Western Macedonia where the road passes through the Pindus Mountains. However, there were geological problems and environmental concerns which required the route to be adjusted slightly. The tunnel design had to be redone and on the Grevena to Ioannian section there was a concern over the habitat of the endangered brown bear being destroyed. The Western Region has a total of 26.6km of road tunnels, the Central Region 19.6km and the Eastern Region 3.3km.

The standard tunnel design, with a 120-year design life, was employed along the Egnatia Odos provides for two traffic lanes, each 3.75m wide with 1.25m pedestrian sidewalks and a maximum clearance of 5m. Underground emergency parking and turn-around points vary according to the length of the tunnel and the anticipated traffic volume but virtually all tunnels feature cross passages between the eastbound and westbound tunnel bores every 350m and emergency vehicle cross passages and parking areas every 1,000m in case of a fire or other emergency. Reinforced concrete provides the final tunnel lining which is separated from the rock by a drainage system that keeps the tunnels dry.

Costs for the tunnel construction were dependent on the geological conditions. This ranged from $8,000 a metre in good conditions to $32,000 a metre in poor conditions and the average cost for the smaller tunnels is $11,000 a metre.

Advanced air-quality sensing and ventilation systems were installed both to monitor and maintain general air quality and extract smoke in the event of a fire. The highway-wide telematics system is also present within the tunnels to ensure their safe and economic operation. There are sophisticated electronic surveillance measures, SCADA controls for the lighting, fire detection and tunnel ventilation systems and also advanced vehicle collision absorption measures in the tunnels.

Bridges on the Egnatia Odos Motorway

By the time its completion in 2009, the Egnatia Motorway had 1,650 bridges and small structures along its length, totalling 40km and 20% of the total project cost. These structures feature many different designs as there were a large variety of bridges built: 205 bridges; 100 overbridges; 235 underpasses and 1,110 culverts.

The major bridges are as follows:

  • Arachthos Bridge: West Region, 1,036m-long cantilever bridge with a pier height of 80m
  • Votonosi Bridge: West Region, 490m-long cantilever bridge with a central span of 230m
  • Krystallopigi Bridge: West Region, left carriageway 850m long, right carriageway 640m long, constructed using the advancing shoring method
  • Metsovitiko Bridge: West Region, 500m long
  • Greveniotiko Bridge: Central Region, 920m-long cantilever bridge with a central span of 100m
  • Mesovounio Bridge: West Region, 260m-long cantilever bridge with a central span of 100m
  • Megaloremma Bridge: West Region, 482m long, constructed using launching method
  • Lissou Bridge: East Region, 430m long, constructed using launching method
  • Nestos Bridge: 940m long, construction method cantilever and launching
  • Bridge Ã10: Central Region, 250m long, construction method
  • Bridge Ã11: Central Region, 270m long, construction cantilever
  • Bridge Ã12: Central Region, 460m long, construction cantilever

Pre-stressing of these bridges is longitudinal (transverse in some cases) and support piers are generally hollow (monolithic or with bearings). Continuous decks with stable or variable structure height were prioritised and abutments are separated from the decks with either sliding or elastomeric bearings.

The majority of the bridges built are in the Central and Eastern regions (222 and 262 respectively) although the average length of bridges is longest in the West Region at 121m for 86 bridges. The major bridges of Egnatia Odos are mainly in the West Region.

Highway safety and telematics

The road, tunnel and bridge safety management system was designed and overseen by DHV and included: ramp metering, express lanes, incident management, traffic monitoring, traffic control, signalling, traffic information systems, tolling systems and tunnel management.

“Egnatia Motorway has 1,650 bridges and small structures along its length.”

Delcan was chosen as the ITS coordinator and provided engineering services for the planning and preliminary design of intelligent transportation systems for the deployment of traffic management, telecommunications, toll collection and motorist advisory systems. An open architecture system was developed to allow integration with the highway’s existing ground transportation facilities as well as future technology upgrades and to enable the system to be refined as operational experience and traffic management needs are realised.

RTMS traffic-counting stations, which include RTMS multi-zone, radar-based vehicle detectors, provide data to assist with network planning and operational issues. EIS Electronic Integrated Systems delivered and installed six RTMS traffic-counting packages on the Egnatia Motorway near Thessaloniki. In this application, the units were mounted on existing lighting poles providing detection in up to three lanes of traffic.