The Vietnam Road Department has awarded a $185m (VND3.313 trn) contract to expand National Highway 51, which links the southern provinces of Dong Nai and Ba Ria-Vung Tau.

Work involves expanding the 72.7km highway by 32.9m in width to accommodate six motor lanes and two general lanes.

Construction, which is expected to finish by 2012, includes expanding ten existing bridges and building 12 new bridges as well as 12 overpasses.

The project will be carried out under the build-operate-transfer basis by Bien Hoa-Vung Tau Expressway Development Joint Stock Company, which is a consortium of three state-owned firms.

The firms include the Viet Nam Urban and Industrial Zone Development Investment, Song Da and Viet Nam Bank for Investment and Development.

The consortium will regain its investment through tolls over a period of 24 years.

The project is expected to allow the highway to handle the increasing traffic flow, which is expected to reach 37,000 in 2010 and 96,000 in 2020.