AT almost 50 million euros over budget, the most expensive road in Spanish history has finally been opened to the public.

In a ceremony on March 1, Minister of Public Works Magdalena Álvarez cut the tape, which was in the red and gold of the Spain flag, to officially open the Nerja-La Herradura stretch of the A7 Mediterranean motorway.

The nine kilometres of road, which cost 151 million euros to construct, hopes to cut the travelling time between the Costa del Sol and the Granada coast in half to less than 10 minutes.

Consisting of three tunnels and five viaducts, the road was projected to open in 2005. However, a series of delays postponed its inauguration until this year: a Moorish mausoleum containing 431 graves was unearthed near Nerja shortly after construction work began; an accident caused the loss of a life of a worker in the Marchante tunnel in February 2004; and strong winds almost caused the one of the viaducts to collapse in December the same year.

Speaking to journalists after the opening of the road, Álvarez said: “We are offering the Costa Tropical and Axarquia mountain range the best infrastructures so than businesses in those areas can compete.”

The minister also defended the safety of the installations along the road. “The tunnels on this stretch of the A7 adhere to strict European Union regulations, which are the most demanding in the world,” she said.

The nine stretches that will complete the A7 road, which hugs the Mediterranean coastline from Cádiz to the France border, are scheduled to be completed in 2009.

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