The modernisation of the highway connecting Ulaanbaatar, the capital city of Mongolia, to Darkhan, a city near the Russian border, has just begun. The Asian Development Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have financed a total of USD 83.8 million loans for the renovation of the deadliest road in Mongolia. The road will be renovated with four-lanes and concrete surfaces in accordance with international standards. However, only two-lanes of the road will be constructed by the end of the 2019 warm-weather window, said officials. Originally, it is planned to fully open the four-lane road on 25 December, 2019.
Built in 1970-1980, the 244 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.
So, by the time, Mongolians celebrate the Year of the Dog, at the beginning of next year, the road should be, if not completely pothole free, certainly a lot safer for travellers.