VILNIUS – Via Baltica is very important because it will be used not only for civilian purposes but also for military mobility, Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said on Monday as Lithuania starts upgrading one of the international motorway's longest stretches between the southern town of Marijampole and the border with Poland.
The motorway "would be a transport artery and a gateway for those coming to Lithuania and, what is extremely important, it would be a part of the military mobility infrastructure", Simonyte said at a ceremony marking the launch of the upgrading project.
"This road will have to meet the requirements of military mobility as well," she said.
Asked why the construction of the motorway in Lithuania is slower than in Poland, the prime minister said this is due to the lengthy process of taking land for public use and to the country having other priorities.
"It could have been done earlier, but it is always a question of priorities," Simonyte said.
"A significant amount of extra money was earmarked for roads in 2020, during the COVID-19 (pandemic). The prices were lower back then (...), but the land procedures had not been completed, and there is a lot of these, because you have to buy private land before starting design work."
Transport Minister Marius Skuodis said that 30 kilometers of Via Baltica between Marijampole and Poland are expected to be completed by the end of 2024, leaving another 12 kilometers to be built near the border.
"The contractors plan to finish this 16-kilometer section, probably the most difficult one, by the end of summer next year," he said at Monday's event.
"In other words, we will have all 30 kilometers of the motorway by the end of next year, and we will still have 12 kilometers to go right up to the Polish border," he said. "I do hope that we will be able to start that work by the end of this year."
Marius Svaikauskas, director general of the Lithuanian Road Administration, says that preparatory work on the last section of Via Baltica – from the northern town of Panevezys to the border with Latvia, is also underway.
"We are already preparing for the upgrading of the next section of Via Baltica, from Panevezys to the Latvian border: pre-project solutions are being finalized and territorial planning procedures are planned to begin," he was quoted as saying in the Transport Ministry's press release.
The entire 40-kilometer road between Marijampole and the Polish border will become a four-lane motorway in 2025, the ministry said, noting that this marks the largest road infrastructure construction project in Lithuania since independence.