Burhan’s offer of MD 547 million ($51 million) was some $5 million less than the second lowest bid, submitted by a team of local contracting firm Hajjiwith Egypt’s Arab Contractors (Osman Ahmed Osman & Company). The second part of the highway will stretch 35.4 kilometres from Had Soualam to Tnine Chtouka and will include a number of bridges, underpasses and culverts.

Hajji was one of four local contractors to be awarded the first tranche of the Casablanca highway. The group, including Houar, Seprob and Handassa, commenced work on the 16-kilometre stretch between Casablanca and Had Soualem last July and construction is scheduled to take 24 months (MEED 9:11:01).

The contract for the third and final section of the highway from Tnine Chtouka to El-Jadida is expected to be let by 2004. The 28-kilometre stretch will include major works for the crossing of the Oued Oum Er Rbia close to El-Jadida.

The upgrade to the 80-kilometre Casablanca-El-Jadida highway will be an important factor in relieving congestion between the kingdom’s commercial capital and the rapidly expanding industrial city of El-Jadida. SNAM estimates that traffic on the already busy route will quadruple between 2005 and 2020.

Project costs, excluding land acquisition and studies, are estimated at MD 1,980 million ($186 million) and will be financed by loans from the Kuwait-based Arab Fund for Economic & Social Development, the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and the European Investment Bank, with SNAM also contributing to the funding.