The Albania–Kosovo Highway (Rruga e Kombit in Albania or Rruga Dr. Ibrahim Rugova in Kosovo[a]), is a four-lane highway constructed from 2006 to the present between Albania and Kosovo by the American-Turkish consortium Bechtel-ENKA, Austrian and Albanian companies. The highway starts near Lezhe, Albania, passes through Kukes as SH5, enters Kosovo as R7, and ends in Pristina near Gjergjica, Kosovo. As part of the South-East European Route 7,[1] the highway will connect the Adriatic Sea ports of Durres and Shengjin in Albania via Pristina, with the E75/Corridor X near Niš, Serbia.

Dubbed the “patriotic highway”, the project links Albanians in Kosovo and Albania, helping to boost cultural and economic ties.[2] The project is Albania's largest in decades, costing over one billion euros. It includes a six kilometer tunnel in Albania, making travel and trade easier for the hundreds of thousands of people vacationing in Albania during summer holidays and for business.


A1 passes mostly through mountainous terrain. Near the city of Kukës it connects with the National Road 5 (SH5) as a dual carriegeway.

The A1 Motorway in Albania, also known as the Rruga e Kombit (Nation's Highway) refers to the road segments between Milot, Rrëshen, and Kalimash in Northern Albania part of the Durrës-Kukës Corridor. In June 2009, the project was symbolically inaugurated with opening of the Thirrë-Kalimash Tunnel, while other sections were partially completed by July 2010,[citation needed], and summer 2011 as the highway is still under construction.

Remaining segments between Kolsh, Kukës, and Morinë are part of the SH5 Highway instead linking Shkodër and Kukës. However, the stretch between Thumane and Milot is part of the A1 together with the single carriageway section between Milot, and Rrëshen. Portions between Fushe Kruje and Thumane, Milot and Rrëshen, and several viaducts on the SH5 still remain to be expanded into dual carriageways, while the Milot Overpass is being completed as a Trumpet Interchange.

Since March 2018, the motorway became a toll highway in order to upgrade remaining segments to full motorway standard, and cover the costs of maintenance.

The highway has reduced the travel time from six hours to two, with an estimated speed of 80–110 km/h. The highway has also boosted tourism in Albania and deepened the cultural and economic exchanges between Albania and Kosovo. As most tourists come through Kosovo, the laying of the highway make it easier to travel to the Durrës and Shengjin ports along the Adriatic Sea.

Rrëshen - Kalimash

Scene on A1 Rreshen - Kalimash

The most challenging part of the corridor was the segment between Rrëshen and Kalimash, which is around 61 km long. It was divided into three sections - a 19 km stretch from Rrëshen to Reps, 27 km from Reps to Thirrë and 15 km between Thirrë and Kolshi. A total of one tunnel and 27 viaducts have been constructed through the steep and mountainous terrain.

There are 17 viaducts in the area from Reps to Thirrë. The use of a hydro-powered electricity grid instead of diesel generators has helped in reducing the carbon footprint of the project. As a result, CO2 emissions have dropped by 613,000 lb (278,000 kg) each month. The above segment as opposed to the other ones is of a higher quality both for security and construction parameters.

Construction work on the remaining segments in Albania finished in 2009. Even though in double carriageway standard, Kolsh-Morinë (SH5) lacks the standard of A1 as entry and exit ramps are missing, while uncontrolled entry and exit points are becoming a major safety issue.[3]


Kalimashi Tunnel entrance at Thirra

The highway passes through a 5.5 km-long double-bore tunnel. Construction works on the tunnel began in May 2007 and were completed with one tunnel tube inaugurated in June 2009. The south-bound tunnel was completed in July 2010.

All four faces of the two tubes of the tunnel have been worked on simultaneously. Rrëshen - Kalimash segment's third section of road between Thirrë and Kolshi included Mt. Runes at an elevation of 1,858m. Laying road on Mt. Runes proved to be a challenge for the engineers. Another challenge was the transportation of construction equipment and material. As about 3,800 people worked on the project, there was the additional responsibility of feeding, clothing and housing them. A partial collapse occurred at a 50m section in the central-south bore of the tunnel in November 2009. No injuries or equipment damages were reported. The collapse occurred because of heavy overbreak (during excavation) at a geologically complex area inside the tunnel and delayed the completion of the south-bound tunnel. During the tunnel construction, the tunneling team encountered five types of rock. In fact, only the north-bound tunnel was opened as per schedule in June 2009.[citation needed]

In 2018, toll booths were installed and became operational near the tunnel entrance as part of making A1 the first toll highway in Albania.

Funding and Contractors

A1 becomes a single carriageway between Milot and Rreshen

The highway project is the biggest road infrastructure project ever done in Albania. Its initial cost was estimated at €600m but during the course of construction this has more than doubled. The project was financed by the government of Albania and some foreign lending institutions. The total cost of the highway is estimated to be over €1bn ($1.4bn).[citation needed] amid allegations of corruption and a growing public debt.[4]

The contract for the construction of road segment between Rreshen and Kalimash, which constitutes one-third of the whole project, was awarded to a joint venture between Bechtel, a US-based engineering company, and Enka, a Turkey-based construction company. The contract was awarded in September 2006 and a majority of the construction works were completed by June 2009. Contractors working in the remaining portions of the highway were Albanian and Austrian based firms. The motorway in Kosovo was also constructed by Bechtel-Enka.

Albania Exit List

SH5 Dual Carriageway near the Albania-Kosovo border
One of the several viaducts under construction on SH5
Type Name Destination Notes
End of SH1 between Fushe Kruje - Thumane with portions under construction.
Italian traffic signs - rotatoria.svg Enter Autostrada A1 Albania.svg Roundabout
Zeichen 314-50 - Parkplatz, StVO 2013.svg Europa Park Rest Area Accessible northbound only
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Fushe-Mamurras SH39 Connection to Mamurras and Patok near Adriatik
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Laç SH35 Connection to Laç, Shna Ndout Church, and Patok Lagoon-Fushe Kuqe Reserve
Sinnbild Autokreuzung.svg Fushe-Milot SH1 Temporary roundabout connecting with Shkoder and Lezhe; Overpass as part of a Trumpet Interchange started in 2015
Sinnbild Autoabzweig.svg Milot SH39 Connection to Lezhe in the north, and Lac in the south
Sinnbild Autoabzweig.svg Skuraj SH6 Connection to Burrel, Peshkopi, and Ulëz Lake Regional Nature Park in Mat region
Sinnbild Autoabzweig.svg Rubik SH30 Connection to Rubik, Katund i Vjeter area, and nearby Berzane Reserve in historic Mirdita region
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Rreshen SH30
Connection to Rreshen, Mirdita and Lura National Park to the south, and the old alternate Qafa Malit route to the north
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Reps SH40 Connection to old Qafa Malit route towards Puka and Fushe-Arrez
Sinnbild Autobahnausfahrt.svg Fan SH40 Connection to Klos and Zall-Xhuxha, Fan area
Zeichen 314-50 - Parkplatz, StVO 2013.svg Kastrati Rest Area Accessible eastbound only
Thirrë-Kalimash Tunnel 5.6 km long
Sinnbild Autokreuzung.svg Kolsh SH5 Connection to Fushe-Arrez and Puka
End of Autostrada A1 Albania.svg. Road continues as SH5 between Kolsh – Kukes – Morine with several viaducts under construction. Enter Flag of Kosovo.svg Kosovo


Portion of the R7 Highway in Kosovo

R7 Motorway shield}}

R7 Motorway
Rruga Dr. Ibrahim Rugova, continues as M9-Kosovo.svg
R7 Motorway in Kosovo
Approaching the border with Albania
Route information
Part of E851-AL.svg
Length 105.0 km (65.2 mi)
Major junctions
West end SH5 in Morine/Vermice border crossing between Albania and Kosovo
East end
M25-Kosovo.svg in Pristina
Major cities Prizren, Suharekë, Pristina
Highway system
Roads in Kosovo

Construction of the Kosovo portion of the highway numbered R7/E851 and named Dr Ibrahim Rugova Highway started in April 2010. It was finished in November 2013 with the Vërmicë-Pristina segment ending in Gjurgjica at the M9. The highway is seen as part of the larger Vërmicë-Merdare Corridor ending at Merdare border crossing with Serbia in eastern Kosovo. R7 is 118 km long at a cost of 700 million euro/ $937 million. This highway will set the travel time from Prishtina to Tirana to 3 hours.[5]Once the remaining E80 Pristina-Merdare section project will be finalized and completed, the motorway will link Kosovo through the present E80 highway with the Pan-European corridor X (E75) near Nis, Serbia.


Since the end of the Kosovo War of 1999, hundreds of thousands of Albanians have passed through the poor old mountain road to get to Albania's beaches.[6] Building a highway would "crystallize a year-round tourism industry and double the size of the Albanian market", while allowing both communities to rationalize agriculture.[6] Travel times are expected to be lowered to two and a half hours or less, down from seven.[6]

Once finalized, the project will link the Adriatic Sea with the Pan-European corridor X at the E80 near the town of Merdar between the contested Kosovo-Serbia border.[citation needed]

US Congressman Eliot Engel has compared Sali Berisha's vision to build this highway to that of Eisenhower to build highways across the United States.[7]

Kosovo Exit List

Type Name Connections Destinations
Start of R7-Kosovo.svg, Vërmicë, (border with Flag of Albania.svg Albania)
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Prizren jug M25-Kosovo.svg Connection to Prizren South and Skopje, Macedonia
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Prizren veri R107 Connection to Prizren North, Peć, and Dakovica
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Suharekë R117 Connection to Suhareka and Theranda
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Duhel M25-Kosovo.svg Connection to Duhel/Dulje and Shtime/Stimlje
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Malisheve R119 Connection to Malisheve
End of R7-Kosovo.svg, the road continues as M9-Kosovo.svg for 24 km (interchanges to Gjurgjica, Sllatine e Madhe and Fushe Kosovë are available)
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Fushe Kosove M9-Kosovo.svg Connection to Pristina and Fushe Kosovë
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Skopje (under construction) R6-Kosovo.svg Connection to Hani i Elezit and Skopje, Flag of Macedonia.svg Macedonia (future)
Traffic Sign GR - KOK 2009 OMOE-KSA 2003 - PI-27 - squared - VCT.svg
Pristina M2-Kosovo.svg Connection to Pristina Northwest and Mitrovica
End of R7-Kosovo.svg, the road continues as M25-Kosovo.svg/E80 to Besiane and Merdare (border with Flag of Serbia.svgSerbia)

Notes and references


a. ^ Kosovo is the subject of a territorial dispute between the Republic of Kosovo and the Republic of Serbia. The Republic of Kosovo unilaterally declared independence on 17 February 2008, but Serbia continues to claim it as part of its own sovereign territory. The two governments began to normalise relations in 2013, as part of the Brussels Agreement. Kosovo has received formal recognition as an independent state from 113 out of 193 United Nations member states.


See also

External links