Built in 1970-1980, the 205 km Ulaanbaatar – Darkhan highway passes through major industrial towns, agricultural regions and tourist camps. The road is of strategic importance, because it is part of the north-south corridor, linking the capital with Russia. Darkhan is the country’s third-largest city. Due to heavier than planned for usage and lack of maintenance, the road is now heavily damaged and the cause of many accidents – including deaths and life-changing injuries.
Nearly 3800 cars use the road daily; the original projected capacity was just 600 a day! The flow of vehicles increases to 12300 during the two traditional festivals of Naadam and Tsagaan Sar (White Moon). During the latter, which takes place in the winter, poor weather conditions including ice and snowstorms make the Darkhan road even more deadly.
Recently, the Asian Development Bank, which finances infrastructure projects in developing countries, approved a USD 60 million in loan funding to help improve and rehabilitate road corridors in Mongolia – including the Darkhan and Ulaanbaatar. The road will be renovated with four-lanes and concrete surfaces in accordance with international standards. According to B.Enkh-Amgalan, Minister of Roads and Transport Development, the highway will soon be closed for reconstruction. During the construction work, rail transport and dirt roads will be used. The minister noted that the government is planning to connect all 21 provinces with the capital by a paved road.