The history of the world’s most expensive road

Construction on a coastal link on the French island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean has already cost more than $2 billion

The new coastal road, or Nouvelle Route du Littoral (NRL), in Réunion.

A 12.4 kilometer (7.7 mile)-long coastal route in Réunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean, is set to be one of the world’s most expensive roads. So far, just eight kilometers (five miles) are operational. But work is progressing and, despite significant technical difficulties, this ambitious civil engineering project is set to be completed in four years’ time.

The new coastal road, or Nouvelle Route du Littoral (NRL), links Réunion’s capital of Saint-Denis with the town of La Possession, which are both located on the north of the island.

Réunion is located near Madagascar, but it is a fully-fledged European territory, as it is one of the four overseas departments that make up France.

Opened to traffic last year, the unique road has so far cost a whopping €2 billion ($2.19 billion), and it is expected to cost another €500 million ($547.5 million) to complete. This is a record-breaking sum for this type of construction, but once finished, the overseas highway is likely to be one of the most dazzling roads on the planet.

However, since construction began in 2015, the NRL has faced several technical difficulties, as well as delays due to material shortages. The coastal road alternates suspended viaducts with breakwaters built on the seabed itself. The aim of the project is to ease traffic on the old and dangerous road that runs along the coast. That road has been a safety hazard due to landslides from the surrounding cliffs, and weather conditions, such as floods, that often affect traffic. Easing congestion on the route is important, as around 60,000 vehicles travel daily between the two island cities.

The NRL was opened to one-way traffic in 2022, it has now just opened to traffic in both directions. In addition to the numerous problems and delays that have occurred during its construction, it has also faced legal problems, with French authorities finding signs of financial irregularities in the accounts for the project.

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