Norway & Russia’s new bridge
New highway linking Norway and Russia officially opens
The Independent Barents Observer
Despite big politics with storms and uncertainties between Europe and Russia, everyday life for people on both sides of the border in the high north continues.
The last stretch of the highway E105 between Kirkenes-Murmansk was officially opened on Friday, September 29. A new tunnel and bridge on the Norwegian side of the border makes Europe’s northernmost cross-border road faster and safer to drive.
Total costs on the Norwegian side of the project are 830 million Norwegian kroner (about $104 million USD). On the Russian side, costs are even higher. Only 12 of the 210 kilometers linking Kirkenes with Murmansk are on Norway’s side of the border. Construction and renovation work on the highway started nearly 10 years ago.
Traffic across the border between the two countries is increasing. Most of the crossings are done by Russians shopping in Norway and Norwegians on shopping tours to the neighboring Kola Peninsula. The official border in the north came in 1826, the last part of Europe to get state borders.
In 1988, during the Cold War, some 2,800 border crossings took place between Norway and the Soviet Union. For 2017, that number is likely to be 270,000 people. With the new highway, capacity is in place for even higher numbers.
“We have a mutual interest in further developing cooperation for business, trade, education, environment, and other areas,” Transport and Communication Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen said in his speech at the opening ceremony.
Normally, when officials open new projects they cut a ribbon. Not so at this ceremony; instead of cutting the ribbon, Minister Solvik-Olsen and Deputy Minister Sergey Aristov knotted two ribbons together in a symbolic move linking Norway and Russia.
A blessed drive
The new highway significantly reduces the time needed for driving between Murmansk and Kirkenes, and it also makes the drive safer. Today, it takes about three hours from Norway to downtown Murmansk if the border crossing itself goes smoothly.
In conjunction with the new bridge comes a new tunnel named the “Trifon tunnel” after the holy Russian-Orthodox monk who lived in the area in the 16th century.
Bishop Olav Øygard of North-Hålogaland and Metropolitan Simon of Murmansk and Monchegorsk held a joint blessing ceremony on the bridge.
Solvik-Olsen says more infrastructure will be developed in the high north, including a cross-border fiber-optic line to Russia. He would not elaborate on other road projects.
Oddgeir Danielsen, leader of the Northern Dimension Partnership for Transport and Logistics, says the new highway plays an important role in east-west infrastructure.
“This has become a highly efficient road, linking Russia with the rest of Europe through northern Norway.”
Danielsen is confident that officials in central Europe will take note of the new road and look into how other parts of rail and road networks across Russian-European borders can be improved.
“Next step up here in the north will be upgrades of the road between Neiden and Kaamanen,” Danielsen elaborates. That road links European highway E6 in Norway with European highway E75 in Finnish Lapland.
This article originally appeared in The Independent Barents Observer and is reprinted here with permission. For more news from the high north, visit thebarentsobserver.com.
This article originally appeared in the Oct. 6, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.