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Argentina, Aguas Negras - ar/20

Cross-border Road

The national highway directorates of Argentina and Chile have kicked off the tender process for a feasibility study of a traffic tunnel between the two countries. The tunnel will span centre-north Chile's Region IV and Argentina's San Juan province. Six Argentine firms and six Chilean firms were invited to submit bids under a closed tender process. Offers are due next month and a winner will be selected by June. Names were not released. The tunnel would be built at the Aguas Negras border pass, 4,000 m-high in the Andes mountains, while the alternative would entail fully paving the existing road. Results should be ready by year-end. The tunnel's estimated price tag is US$30 million but the final cost will depend on a number of variables such as geotechnical details and whether the tunnel will be three, four or five km-long. If built, the tunnel will be financed on the two countries' US$400 million border crossings and integration corridors programme. The Inter-American Development Bank approved a US$200 million loan for the programme in December 2000, while the Japan Bank for International Cooperation is providing US$120 million and local counterpart funds the remainder. 18/03.According to a preliminary technical study just submitted, the 14 km tunnel between Argentina and Chile will cost over USD250 million. The idea is to finance the project via a concession. The tunnel would guarantee year-round passage between both countries. The current Aguas Negras border pass, 4,000 m-high in the Andes, is subject to closures during the winter. The tunnel is considered as a key link for pushing forward the bi-oceanic corridor between Chile's Region IV port Coquimbo and Brazilian port Porto Alegre. The project would also include an access tunnel which would be used for maintenance and act as an escape route. 23/04.China and Argentina signed on 29th June an agreement in principle for building a 13.9 km tunnel across the Andes on a visit of president Nestor Kirchner to Beijing. The tunnel, which will cross five Argentinian provinces, will be built some 800 m below the present crossing at Aguas Negras Pass in San Juan. The tunnel, which is part of the central bi-oceanic corridor between Porto Alegre in Brazil and Coquimbo in Chile, is designed to shorten considerably the distance between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and boost Argentinian soya and fruit exports to China, permitting and all-weather link by avoiding passage through the Cristo Redendor cross-border tunnel in Mendoza between Argentina and Chile, which is sometimes closed during winter thereby crippling hundreds of trucks on both sides of the Andes. The tunnel's cost estimate reaches USD250 million and it will be constructed by China National Overseas Engineering Corp. and the Fourth Engineering Bureau at an estimated time frame of 68 months once the final agreement is signed. Click ar/20 & cl/24. 29/04.