Putin builds a bridge

Russia started construction on 18 March 2014 to build a 19 km bridge connecting Russia to Crimea. The ambitious $4.3 billion project is flagged to be completed by December 2018, but this seems unlikely given the labour, geography and engineering difficulties.

There will be two bridges running parallel to each other. One will have four lanes designed for everyday cars, whereas the other will have two railroad tracks—both will share the same piling sites.

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Why is it being built?

After the annexation of Crimea, Ukraine blocked most roads and rail traffic into the area. So goods could only enter via air or sea which incurs large costs. There are also Russian tourists (who are crucial to the Crimean economy) who need easier access to the Peninsula.

Political motives are also at play, and the bridge is essential to Putin’s plan to make Crimea a viable part of Russia.

Issues with construction

There are three factors slowing down the progress of construction. First, the harsh weather in the region makes work difficult. Even in perfect conditions, it is very windy, and storms back in June kept workers off the job for days. Also, most of the pilings must be installed before winter because the water will freeze and ice flows will need to be managed.

Secondly, there are engineering oversights according to Russian civil engineer Georgy Rosnovsky. The location of the bridge leaves it vulnerable to mud volcanoes on the sea bed and earthquakes. Some of the pilings need to be driven 90m into the seabed to reach a solid foundation.

Lastly, there have been reports of worker abuse. Workers were promised USD80/day as well as food and accommodation. However, food and lodging is being deducted from the USD80/day leaving little net wage for workers. There are also allegations that workers are being fired and sent home without pay for taking breaks. It remains to be seen how much Putin’s bridge will actually cost, and when it will be open.

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