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30 November 2004

USAID constructs five West Bank highways, $8 million project

JENIN, West Bank -
Palestinian contractors, funded by the American people, completed construction and rehabilitation work Monday on five important West Bank roads spanning a total of 28 kilometers.

The roads, financed with an $8 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), will give more than 250,000 Palestinians improved access to nearby towns and villages.

Roads rehabilitated include:

Jenin - Arabah Road, 10.2 Km.

Einabous - Urif Road, 2.6 Km.

Zeita - Jammaien Road, 5 Km.

Hussan - Nahaleen Road, 2.8 Km

Kharas - Halhoul Road, 7.4 Km.

The reconstruction of the five roads was carried out by five Palestinian contractors and generated 467 jobs in the local communities for a total of 16,000 person days of employment.

The five contractors were Saqqa & Khoudary Co. (SAK) on the Jenin road; Abu Shosheh on the Urif Road; Arab Contractors-Palestine on the Zeita road; Ocean Contracting on the Nahaleen road; and SAK Joint Venture for the Kharas road.

The 10.2 km Jenin to Arabah road restores what locals call their "lifeline" with Nablus, the West Bank's northern economic center. The new road serves over 25 villages in the southern part of Jenin district, all dependent on Jenin for commerce and basic services like healthcare.

The road, which dated back to the British mandate period, had been poorly maintained for decades. The heavy traffic load from the many stone-quarries and stone-mills in the area added to the wear and tear.

Costing $3.25 million, the Jenin - Arabah project also gave needed business to local stone-quarries by procuring most construction materials locally -- an estimated 176,000 tons of stone worth over 3.5 million shekels ($800,000).

Area residents say that distances that took over half an hour to travel, now take less than 10 minutes - saving time, fuel, stress and high car repair costs.

Husam Kawadra, a farmer from the village of Beir al-Basha, said the new road cut down his commute. "It used to take me two hours to get to my land," he said, "now I make it in half an hour."

Qasem Alawone, the mayor of Qabatya, whose village borders the road, is particularly grateful for the new road. "I would prefer to travel 50 kilometers than to traverse the old road," he said.

But no one is happier than the people at the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

"In addition to the significant mental distress our patients were enduring because of the rough and jerky drive, many would suffer from complications, especially pregnant women, when we transported them along that road," said Mohammad Zaher, director of the Jenin branch. "The new road is dramatically improving the transport quality, and critically cutting down the travel time needed to deliver emergency care."

The people of Beir al-Basha asked that speed bumps be added to their portion of the road for the safety of pedestrians and USAID complied.

Along the Urif Road, people are also celebrating - particularly the housewives.

"The old unpaved road used to cover everything with dirt," said one woman in Urif. "For years we couldn't open our windows because the dust entered our houses. We are very happy about the new road"

The roads project began in July 2004 under USAID's Roads Rehabilitation Project Phase II.

Phase I, the Emergency Roads Rehabilitation Project (ERRP) began a year earlier and rehabilitated 70 km of roadway in 16 municipalities at a cost of $14.5 million. That phase generated 52,500 person days of employment for 950 workers.

Both project phases were planned and executed in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and local municipalities and managed by the U.S. engineering firm CH2M Hill.

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