Iran has opened the latest section of a 121km freeway that will link Tehran to Mazandaran province on the Caspian Sea, Iran’s Press TV news agency reports.
The toll road was to have been built by Chinese and South Korean companies, but these withdrew from the project after the US renewed sanctions against Iran in May 2018. They were replaced by an Iranian consortium led by the giant Mostazafan Foundation.
The Tehran-Shomal Freeway, which crosses some of the most mountainous terrain in Iran, is to be built in four sections, the second of which was opened by President Hassan Rouhani on Tuesday.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, Rouhani said: "We built the section during the time of sanctions, and we are proud that the sanctions did not affect the will of our engineers, workers and managers to complete this important project."
The 32km road, which is reckoned to have cost about $1bn to complete, includes 18 tunnels, one of which is about 5km long. It also has a number of bridges supported by cement pillars that "tower over picturesque canyons", according to Press TV.
It runs between the Azadegan Expressway and Hemmat Expressway in northwestern Tehran.
Section four of the route, which is 20km long and has four tunnels, was opened in March 2013.
The remaining two sections will require the construction of the largest number of tunnels and bridges. Section two, which has a total length of 25km, will include 20 tunnels with an overall length of more than 24km. Its construction is underway, with completion expected next year.
Section three, the hardest in engineering terms, will be 46km long and will have 92 tunnels with a total length of 33km.
The Mostazafan Foundation is the second-largest enterprise in Iran behind the state-owned National Iranian Oil Company, and biggest holding company in the Middle East. It is run on a non-profit basis and has 5 million employees across the Iranian economy.
â€‹Image: The fourth, and flattest, section of the motorway was opened in 2013 (Telluride 749/CC BY-SA 4.0)