Road Transportation

Road Transportation

In 1987 Albania had about 6,700 kilometers of paved roads and between 9,000 and about 15,000 kilometers of other roads suitable for motor vehicles. The total length of Albania's roads had more than doubled in about three decades, and by the 1980s almost all of the country's remote mountain areas were connected, at least by dirt roads, with the capital city and ports. The country's roads, however, were generally narrow, poorly marked, pocked with holes, and in the early 1990s often crowded with pedestrians and people riding mules, bicycles, and horse-drawn carts. Even in tiny villages, hundreds of people of all ages gathered daily along main roads waving their arms seeking rides, and gangs of children often blocked rural highways hoping to coax foreign travelers into tossing them candy. Heavy snowfalls cut off some mountain areas for weeks at a time. Central government funding of local road maintenance effectively ended in 1991, and the breakdown of repair vehicles because of a lack of spare parts threatened to close access to some remote areas. A group of Greek construction companies signed a protocol with the Albanian government in July 1990 to build a 200- kilometer road across the southern part of the country, extending from the Albanian-Greek border to Durrės. The project was scheduled to last four years and cost US$500 million.

Despite the appalling quality of Albania's roads, most of the country's freight was conveyed over them in a fleet of about 15,000 smoke-belching trucks. According to official figures, in 1987 Albania's roadways carried about 66 percent of the country's total freight tonnage. In 1991 the Albanian government lifted the decades-old ban on private-vehicle ownership. The country's roads, once almost devoid of motor traffic, began filling up with recklessly driven cars that had been snapped up in used-car lots across Europe. Car imports numbered about 1,500 per month, and a black-market car lot began operating just off Tiranė's main square. Traffic in the capital remained light, but traffic lights and other control devices were urgently needed to deal with the multiplying number of privately owned cars. Albanian entrepreneurs also imported used Greek buses and started carrying passengers on intercity routes that did not exist or had been poorly serviced during the communist era. Gangs of hijackers and thieves, who preyed on truck and automobile traffic, made road travel hazardous in some regions.


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