Since the launch of the Asian Development Bank- (ADB) sponsored Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program in 1997, regional cooperation in Central Asia has centered on transport, energy, and trade facilitation. The 500-kilometer (km) Bishkek–Torugart road in the Kyrgyz Republic is part of CAREC transport corridor 1, the shortest road linking Kashgar, a vibrant cultural and trade center in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), with the consumer markets in the northern Kyrgyz Republic, Kazakhstan, and Russian Federation. The Torugart post is a major border control and customs facility between the Kyrgyz Republic and the PRC. At appraisal, the condition of the Bishkek–Torugart road was poor. Border-crossing facilities and procedures were outdated and inefficient, and this obstructed international traffic and trade.
The CAREC Transport Corridor 1 (Bishkek–Torugart Road) Project, approved by ADB for a $20 million grant in November 2008, was to be the first of the planned three implementation phases of the Bishkek–Torugart road improvement initiative. The whole initiative would include: (i) improving 488 km of the Bishkek–Torugart road and the 20 km Bishkek bypass road; (ii) modernizing infrastructure and facilities at the Kyrgyz Republic–PRC border crossing at Torugart; and (iii) policy and institutional support in the road subsector.
The first project was envisaged to contribute to the initiative by delivering four outputs (i) an improved 39-km road section of the Bishkek–Torugart road; (ii) modernized customs infrastructure at the Kyrgyz Republic–PRC border crossing at Torugart; (iii) a transport sector master plan for 2010–2025; and (iv) a fully operational Bishkek–Torugart Road Corridor Management Department (BTRCMD). It was anticipated that the entire area along the project road would benefit from the project through economic development and increased access to markets and social services. It was also expected that completion of the project would help boost trade between the Kyrgyz Republic and the PRC.
Except for the customs facility component that was dropped, the project fully delivered all its planned outputs. Improvements on the road included subbase enforcement; surface repaving; construction of culverts and drainage systems, bus stations, and about 4,000 meters of sidewalks along the main road; and installation of road safety facilities. The transport sector master plan, which proposed a transport development strategy and a set of priority projects, is being used by the government as a guidance document to further develop transport subsector development plans. Advisory consultants provided by the project assessed the BTRCMD’s institutional framework and capacity, and recommended a long-term development plan (2010–2020) for strengthening the department. At project completion review (PCR), the BTRCMD was fully operational with six maintenance units, adequate staff and equipment, and assured budget.
Modernization of the customs infrastructure at Torugart was dropped, as some customs infrastructure improvements were already being undertaken by the government using its own funds. The new location of the customs infrastructure, which was planned because of harsh weather conditions and high maintenance costs at the current site, could also not be decided due to changes in government policy and weak coordination between government agencies.
Completion of the project has substantially improved the road condition in the project area. Vehicles can now travel at an average speed of 50–90 km/hour, compared with 25–35 km/hour before the project. The improved road condition has facilitated cross-border and local traffic. Average traffic on the project road in 2012 was about 648 vehicles per day, about 31% higher than estimated at appraisal. The outputs and outcome of the project carried forward the government’s development objectives and ADB’s country support strategy.
The project had the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MOTC) as executing agency. The project implementation unit (PIU) under the MOTC implemented all the project components except for customs modernization, which was assigned to the PIU under the State Customs Committee.