Turkey is going through an intensive infrastructure buildup, with the majority of funds going toward ports, bridges and tunnels as well as a massive artificial waterway.
Following the growth of the past decade, which saw the number of the country's ports double, some of the biggest infrastructure projects are still in the planning stages.
Despite the unrest of recent months, Turkey still has high ambitions for continued growth. The country has grown, from 2003 to 2012, at an average annual real GDP growth rate of more than 5%, and its exports rose to $152 billion in 2013 from $36 billion in 2002. But, by 2023, Turkey wants to raise exports to $500 billion and continue to attract foreign direct investment, which, from 2003 to 2013, amounted to $136 billion, according to the Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency.
"Infrastructure must be improved in a country which aims to have more international investors," said Sanem Saka Görgün, communications coordinator for the ministry. "In order to reinforce its infrastructure and make Turkey one of the most attractive destinations for investors, we have made huge investments in infrastructure."
To meet this demand, the country's infrastructure development is well under way, mostly under a system of public-private partnerships in which investors are projected to recover their investment via 25- to 50-year concession contracts or government investments. European and Asian firms are working with Turkish firms on several road, rail, bridge and water projects.
Several of the large projects Turkey has embarked on in the 21st century were originally conceived in the heyday of the Ottoman Empire. Last October saw the opening of the $4.6-billion Marmaray railway project, which was delayed by several years due to extensive archeological finds dating back to 6,000 B.C., according to Turkish authorities. The so-called Rail Silk Road, constructed by the Turkish-Japanese consortium led by Taisei, includes an 8.5-mile tunnel under the Bosphorus, an idea first floated, quite literary, in 1860: One outline of the project from that period shows the tunnel on pillars, "floating" in the sea. The current tunnel was bored to a maximum depth of 60 meters.
The most ambitious project ahead is the $7-billion Canal Istanbul, a 45-kilometer-long artificial waterway and associated infrastructure linking the Black and Marmara seas, first proposed by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent in the 16th century. The project is currently in tenders, according to Görgün, and is projected to be in service for the Turkish Republic's 100th anniversary in 2023, although he gave no projected start date. The overall cost of the project, which includes construction of associated bridges, highways and airports, is expected to reach $30 billion to $50 billion. Environmental experts, including the chairman of the Chamber of Environmental Engineers, are highly opposed to the project for a variety of reasons, including the project's potential environmental impact.
Another $11.5 billion is going toward port projects: Tenders will be going out shortly for three port projects that are expected to triple the country's container-handling capacity, according to Görgün: Çandarli Port on the Agean Sea, Mersin Second Container Port on the Mediterranean Sea and Filyos Port on the Black Sea. The government also is planning to build a suspension bridge on the Dardanelles Strait, although no cost estimates have been made for the project.
Meanwhile, construction is well under way on two other projects connecting Europe and Asia: the $2.7-billion Third Bosphorus Bridge project and the $1.25-billion Eurasia Tunnel. At 194 feet wide and 1,050 feet high, the Bosphorus bridge will be one of the largest suspension bridges with a railway network when it opens next year.
The 9.1-mile Eurasia Tunnel project, which includes a 3.4-mile twin-deck tunnel under the Bosphorus, is being constructed between the cities of Kazlicesme and Goztepe, located about one kilometer south of Marmaray.