Russian authorities have signed off the budget to build a 19km a bridge across the Kerch Strait between Crimea and the Caucasus.
The bridge to the Crimea will be the longest in Russia. All the necessary temporary infrastructure required for such a large-scale construction has been created, so we can start the construction– Roman Starovoit, Russian Federal Road Agency
Pravda reports that more than 30 members of the state expertise department, Glavgosexpertiza, pored over 570 volumes of documents to verify the accuracy of the cost estimate, which has now been put at $2.8bn (212 billion roubles), just over $9m less than the government earlier decreed it should cost. Auditors approved their work.
The Russian Federal Road Agency said on Friday, 19 February, that it had authorised the construction. Agency head Roman Starovoit said that the balance of quality, cost and timing was the main priority in the project. Â
"Titanic work has been done since the time of the conclusion of the state contract," he said. "The bridge to the Crimea will be the longest in Russia. All the necessary temporary infrastructure required for such a large-scale construction has been created, so we can start the construction."
Pipeline construction company Stroygazmontazh, owned by Kremlin ally and businessman Arkady Rotenberg, was picked to build the bridge last year.
Russian president Vladimir Putin (pictured) met with Crimea leader Sergei Aksyonov on 20 February to discuss the plan.
When Crimea seceded from Ukraine in 2014 Ukraine responded by restricting its access to electricity. A state of emergency has been in force since November last year, when saboteurs blew up pylons carrying electricity into the peninsula, cutting all grid power for 2 million people.
Russia responded by laying power cables across the Kerch Strait – called a "power bride" – to supply electricity to the peninsula.
The Kerch Strait bridge will consist of two parallel road and rail decks. For the railway section, engineers have designed a special combination of superstructure, open main trusses and arch to ensure its reliability.
If all goes according to plan the bridge will open in 2018.
Photograph: Russian president Vladimir Putin takes part in a videoconference to launch the second stage of the "power bridge" from Krasnodar Territory to Crimea, December 2015 (Kremlin.ru)