(Cihan) вЂ" The tunnel on Istanbul- Ankara highway in northwestern province of Bolu is opened Tuesday after 14 years of construction. The construction continued during the mandates of 16 transportation ministers and witnessed two major earthquakes in 1999. Once the tunnel is completed the average traveling time between Istanbul and Ankara is to be reduced to three and a half hours.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Italian counterpart Romano Prodi inaugurated the 2. 871 meters long tube in Istanbul -Ankara direction, reports Trend.
In a speech at the opening Erdogan said he was happy to see a nation's dream fulfilled.
"In this time when the relations between our countries gain strength, our joint inauguration is both the final and a brand new start" said Erdogan in his speech.
Prodi also stressed that the friendship and economic cooperation between the two Mediterranean countries was of great importance. He finished his speech by saying: "Long live Italy, long live Turkey! And may both countries exist forever."
The work on the Ankara-Istanbul tube of the tunnel continues and the officials say that it would be opened in March or April due to technical reasons.
The project was launched in 1993 by the Italian Astaldi firm. A pause was made after the 1999 Bolu earthquake to repair the damage and reassess the project. The total budget for the project is estimated at about US$900 million.