The Bishkek–Torugart road, comprising 539 kilometers (km), forms an important section of the Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) transport corridor 1. It is (i) a part of the old Silk Road that once linked Europe with what is now the People’s Republic of China (PRC), (ii) the only north–south trunk road in the central Kyrgyz Republic that connects the Naryn city and region to the rest of the country, and (iii) the only road providing direct access to the Issyk-Kul Lake region, one of Central Asia's best-known tourist destinations with huge growth potential.
However, poor road quality rendered travel costly, unreliable, and unsafe, hampering social and economic development along the corridor, particularly for the Naryn region. To address the situation, the government prioritized improving the Bishkek–Torugart road in its Road Sector Development Strategy 2007‒2010, which was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) through three individual projects.
CAREC Transport Corridor I (Bishkek-Torugart Road) Project 3 was approved by ADB in June 2011 for a loan of $55 million to the Kyrgyz Republic. It aimed to contribute to increasing regional traffic and trade and access to markets and social services of the people living along the corridor, as impact, and improve the mobility of people and goods with origins and destinations in the corridor, as outcome. It had two planned components ─ road improvement and capacity development. During implementation, the project incurred cost overruns due to improved engineering design and price escalation, which were met by an additional financing of $10.8 million in loan and $4.8 million in grant approved by ADB in December 2014.
The planned project outputs were substantially achieved. 60.033 km of the Bishkek–Torugart road section was upgraded through subgrade enforcement; surface repaving; construction of bridges, culverts. and a drainage system; and installation of road safety facilities. The two-lane upgraded road met national Category III road standards, with a carriage width of 7 meters; a shoulder, 2 meters wide on each side; and design speed of 90 km per hour. An additional 30-centimeter sub-grade layer and deeper side drainage were added to the engineering design to prevent cracking caused by extremely low temperatures and the freeze–thaw cycle. Protection measures for the Chatyr-Kul Lake wetlands ─ an internationally significant conservation site protected under the Ramsar Convention ─ were likewise undertaken. These measures included the construction of an integrated system of drainage ditches and spill retention ponds and the provision of required environmental monitoring equipment
Project skills trainings significantly enhanced the Ministry of Transport and Roads’ (MOTR) capacity for research, infrastructure management, and technology transfer. Several institutional reforms, including the development of key legal acts, the introduction of toll roads, and sector restructuring, and the updating of the Road Sector Development Strategy to 2025 were also supported.
The project’s intended outcome was consequently achieved. Together with improvements in other sections, and the full opening of the corridor to traffic in 2017, the project road has enabled all-weather, smooth flow of both local traffic and international through-traffic from the PRC to Central Asia and beyond, unleashing one of the key constraints to national and regional trade competitiveness and inclusive growth. Economic benefits include time savings, increased reliability, and reduced transport costs. Better road conditions and protective structures have helped reduce the risk of accidental toxic spills and material runoff from vehicles, therefore benefiting the ecosystem of the nearby Chatyr-Kul Lake.
MOTR was the executing agency. MOTR’s Investment Projects Implementation Group took charge of day-to-day implementation.