Iraq's Ministry of Construction and Housing is planning to build rest areas for travellers on Expressway No. 1, which extends from Basra in southern Iraq to the country's western borders with Jordan and Syria, officials announced on August 22nd.
"The National Centre for Engineering and Architectural Consultancy, which belongs to the ministry, has finished preparing basic designs for the rest areas, under the framework of a plan to rehabilitate international highway No. 1, and provide the best services for travellers," said Istabraq al-Shok, senior undersecretary at the ministry.
"These rest areas will be strung all along the highway, and each will include a first-class restaurant, shopping mall, house of worship and stations for car washing, maintenance and refuelling," he told Mawtani.
According to al-Shok, the ministry is about to announce -- by way of the General Commission for Roads and Bridges -- a public tender to invite all private sector companies and contractors to bid on building the rest areas under a lease system.
Under this system, the investing party or parties will build rest areas based on the prepared designs and run them under ministry supervision for 20 years. Then, ownership of the entire project will revert to the state, he said.
Officials said the facilities will likely cost around one billion dinars ($858,000) each to build.
Samir Ibrahim, director of the General Commission for Roads and Bridges, told Mawtani the project "includes building 10 new rest areas on both sides of Expressway No. 1", with the actual facilities ranging between six and eight dunams in size.
These facilities will "provide all means of comfort and services needed by travellers", he said.
Ibrahim said the project will have "important economic benefits", such as bolstering travel on Expressway No. 1 and creating numerous job opportunities for unemployed residents living in cities and towns along the highway.
The project will also "reflect the civilised face of the country", he added.
Parliament member Uday Awwad praised the project.
"There is a great need for the presence of such rest stops because the distances on Expressway No. 1 are long and arduous for travellers, and the existing private rest areas are very few and their services costly," he said.
"The project, if completed, will help lessen the burden of travel and a large part of its cost, while providing high-quality integrated services," he said. "It will also boost the traffic of passengers and various goods."