With three major highway construction projects planned for 2014-15, Morocco is pushing to expand its already extensive road network. At an estimated cost of around Dh13bn (€1.1bn), the new roads are expected to help to support growth in several sectors, including construction, logistics, mining and industry. Morocco is planning a dramatic increase in transport capacity across the rail, air and maritime segments, but roads have been a particular focus. The national highway authority, Autoroutes du Maroc (ADM), has picked up the pace of road construction in the past 10 years, in an effort to meet the government’s goal of 1800 km of highways by 2015, up from 1416 km today. The three new projects, one of which is under way, would add 380 km, putting Morocco in line to meet this target.
STRATEGIC PROJECTS: Work began in April 2013 on the first project, a 143-km highway between the coastal towns of El Jadida and Safi. This segment will extend the primary southern coastal artery that currently reaches from Casablanca to El Jadida. In doing so, it will help promote growth in the Doukkala-Abda region by linking towns with high potential in industry, mining and tourism to a more efficient transport network.
The road will stretch from El Jadida to the port of Jorf Lasfar, some 20 km south, the location of the primary phosphates processing and export facility of Office Chérifien des Phosphates (OCP), and a base for other industrial activity. It will then connect to Oualidia before linking up to the port of Safi further south. The total project cost is estimated between Dh4bn (€355.2m) and Dh4.8bn (€426.2m), to be financed by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the European Investment Bank. Construction of the first two sections of the highway will be handled by Morocco firms Houar and Haji, while a Turkish outfit, Nurol, will handle the final two stages.
The second project is a 173-km highway connecting the central town of Beni Mellal to Berrechid, which is 30 km south-east of Casablanca, at an estimated cost of Dh6.1bn (€541.7m). This high-speed connection is expected to promote economic development in the interior and provide these areas with a direct link to the economic capital of Casablanca, its port and surrounding logistics centres. The road will pass through Khouribga, the OCP’s most important phosphate mine, before reaching Beni Mellal, considered a high-potential agricultural zone given its proximity to water resources coming from the Atlas Mountains.
Finally, the third project will extend the Rabat ring road by 41 km, which will allow traffic to bypass Temara, Salé and Rabat. At a cost of Dh2.8bn (€248.6m), this link will help ease urban congestion, reduce travel times and provide a direct connection between motorways converging from south, east and north of Rabat.
NEW LOGISTICS CHANNELS: A well maintained, extensive road network lies at the core of the country’s logistics and industrial development programme. Moroccan authorities aim to complete a network of 15 industrial parks and 18 dedicated logistics zones nationwide by 2030, which would spur activity in sectors such as agriculture, retail, manufacturing and natural resource processing. Some logistics centres are already in operation, including two platforms in the greater Casablanca area, and the government aims to launch work on at least nine zones in the next two years.
The state also plans to construct two-lane express roads, outside the existing motorway network, that will provide a direct connection among industrial and logistics platforms and cater to heavy vehicle traffic. Some 180 km of these express roads are under construction, and a comprehensive plan to connect the planned industrial parks will be formalised in the near term.
Meanwhile, the kingdom faces a challenge in maintaining this extensive road network. While many of the newer highways are still in good condition, the percentage of the complete road system in top condition ( categories A and B), including urban and rural roads, declined from 63% in 2002 to 53% today. According to the local media, Dh50bn (€4.4bn) was spent between 2005 and 2012 on refurbishing and maintaining roads.