Ill-reputed D1 highway to see unprecedented reconstruction over 10 years

The Transport Ministry has announced extensive plans to overhaul more than 160 kilometres of what is often considered to be the country’s worst highway: the highly-used D1 thoroughfare from Prague to Brno. For years the D1 has been plagued by aging surfaces, damaged sections, and complicated reconstruction – often a nightmare for drivers. But, transport officials hope, that could soon change.

If you ask anyone about the Czech Republic’s oldest highway – the D1 – don’t expect to hear many positive reactions. We spoke to a number of people on Prague’s streets on Friday; here’s what they had to say about the country’s D1 highway:

“I studied for eight years in Olomouc, so I used this highway two or three times a month and it’s truly horrible. Of course it will be good to renovate it.”

“It’s a miserable highway. The quality of the surface is just awful. When you drive there, it’s not driving - it’s war!”

“I think the best thing would be if a foreign company won the tender: best of all would be one from Germany. Look at their highways compared to ours. Theirs are real quality. Germany or Austria, when you cross the border the difference is obvious!”

Increasing quality and safety is something the Transport Ministry and the Road and Motorway Directorate of the Czech Republic are addressing in the most extensive planned reconstruction in the highway’s long history. On Thursday, the spokeswoman for the Road and Motorway Directorate, Martina Vápeníková, told public broadcaster Czech TV that the estimated cost for the project would be 18 billion crowns (the equivalent of around 1 billion US dollars). Beginning next year, reconstruction will cover the most damaged and worn sections of the highway first, then move to different areas eventually all the way from Mirošovice near Prague to Kývalka near Brno. The Road and Motorway Directorate’s Martina Vápeníková:

The cost of revamping the D1 (an average of 1.8 billion annually) may seem high – not least during a period of economic crisis – but a Transport Ministry official said on Thursday that the ministry had already allotted 800 million crowns for 2010. Also, it is expected that additional funds could come from both the state and private sectors under existing programmes. Of course, the 18 billion is just an initial figure: over ten years it’s plausible the final price tag will still go up.