Bids have been invited by 2 August for the southern expressway project to build a partial ring-road around Muscat. About 10 companies are prequalified for the estimated RO 60 million ($154 million) contract out of a large number that expressed an interest in February.The contract calls for the construction of a 56-kilometre bypass running parallel to the existing Sultan Qaboos highway, stretching from Qurum to the Al-Naseen roundabout. The local office of Parsons Internationalis the consultant to the client, Muscat Municipality. The tender issue is understood to have been brought forward following growing congestion on Sultan Qaboos highway. However, the project fits into a wider scheme well under way to improve roads in and around the capital (Oman, MEED Special Report, 28:5:04, pages 34-35).