On Friday, Central and Eastern Europe's motorways were connected for the first time to the Western European motorway grid. On the exact spot where the Iron Curtain stood 17 years ago, an opening ceremony was held on Friday at the Czech-German border crossing Rozvadov-Waidhaus to mark the occasion. The completed motorway will allow smoother and safer passage between the two countries, something drivers and businesses in both the Czech Republic and Germany had long been calling for.
Twenty-nine years after construction began, the last remaining stretch of the D5 motorway connecting the Czech capital Prague with the German border in the West was opened on Friday morning close to the city of Plzen. The 3.5 kilometre section with a new tunnel equipped with cameras and sensors which can spot a stolen car, for example, is part of a ring road around Plzen. Petr Otasek from the Road and Motorway Directorate.
"Drivers can now make the 151 kilometres from Prague to the Rozvadov border crossing in just over an hour. The completion of the ring road is a relief for Plzen. Besides, the length of the ring road is exactly the same as driving through the city - 20.5 kilometres, but using the ring road you will avoid those 17 traffic lights and one railway crossing."
At the same time as the complete Plzen ring road was opened, drivers in Germany could start using a 30-kilometre section of the A6 motorway connecting the Czech border to the A93 Amberg-Regensburg-Munich motorway. The mayor of Plzen, Miroslav Kalous, says apart from being economically and politically significant today, the connection is important for historical reasons.
"For the Czech Republic this means the first complete motorway connection with the European Union, also thanks to EU financing. For Plzen this means a renewal of a traditional trade route between Regensburg and Prague which was a traditional source of profit for Plzen. But today the parameters of the route correspond to the lifestyle and standard of living in this day and age."
Under good weather conditions - and barring traffic and roadworks of course - drivers can get from Prague to Munich in less than 3 hours. The complete motorway connecting Prague and Nuremberg, called Via Carolina after Emperor Charles IV. is to be opened in 2008.
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