Iraq is planning to build a new expressway over the coming four years connecting Basra in the south to the country’s northern border with Turkey.

Called the new Silk Road, the first section of the expressway – running from Baghdad to Abu Ghraib – has been allocated, according to Mohammad al-Darraji, Iraq’s Housing and Construction Minister, speaking at MEED’s Iraq Infrastructure Projects conference in Dubai.

The existing 1,200-kilometre (km) roadway from Basra to Baghdad is in need of rehabilitation. This scheme has been divided into six sections. The road stretching from Helia to Diwaniyah will receive commercial bids by early October. Another section from Diwaniya to Basra will be financed by the Washington-headquartered World Bank, which has asked firms to submit prequalification documents by 23 September.

Another 800km of new road in the north of Iraq will be needed to complete the Silk Road project. This will connect Baghdad to Erbil in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region and further on to the Turkish border. 

Iraq signed a design contract with Denmark’s Cowi in September 2012 for the new road link. 

The country has an existing network of about 50,000km of main roads and another 40,000km of rural and urban roads. All of these links will require maintenance, said Al-Darraji. “There is not a metre of road in Iraq that has not been driven over by an American tank,” he said.

Iraq plans to spend $9.1bn on road and housing schemes in 2013. This figure is expected to rise to $15.3bn by 2016.