THE NATIONAL Highway Company (NDS) signed an agreement over the construction of the D1 cross-country highway stretch between Lietavská Lúčka and Dubná Skala on June 11. Part of the section is the longest highway tunnel in Slovakia, the Višňové. The construction should be completed in 2019. Preparation for the construction of the tunnel took 16 years.

“I am glad that the construction of the most crucial section with the Višňové tunnel can start as of tomorrow,” said Transport Minister Ján Počiatek, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The stretch will be built by a consortium of Italian company Salini Impregilo and Slovak firm Dúha, owned by businessman Miroslav Remeta, for €410 million, SITA wrote.

The stretch is important for the highway so as to avoid the road under Strečno Castle, where traffic jams often occur, the Hospodárske Noviny daily wrote. After its completion, the travel time between Žilina and Vrútky may be cut by about 23 minutes.

Moreover, the new road will increase the safety of drivers, Ľubomír Palčák of the Research Institute of Transport in Žilina told Hospodárske Noviny.

Dúha did not win the competition by placing the lowest bid. The construction firm Skanska wanted to build the stretch for €338 million, but was excluded from the tender by the Public Procurement Office (ÚVO) because of technical problems with tunnel exits, the Sme daily reported back in April. The company with the second lowest bid, Doprastav, which offered €382 million, was excluded because of its participation in a cartel agreement signed in 2005, according to Hospodárske Noviny.