The Highways in Albania are the central state and main transport network in Albania. The motorways and expressways are both part of the national road network. The motorways are primary roads with a speed limit of 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph). They have white on green road signs such as in Italy and other countries nearby. The expressways are the secondary roads, also dual carriageways, but without an emergency lane. They have a speed limit of 90 kilometres per hour (56 mph). They have white on blue road signs.
The A1 is the country's longest and only toll highway connecting the port city of Durrës on the Adriatic Sea in the west as well as the capital of Tirana in the center, with the Republic of Kosovo in the northeast. The A3 is the second longest motorway and connects Tirana with the Pan-European Corridor VIII, running from Durrës on the Adriatic Sea to Varna on the Black Sea. The A2 is the third longest motorway and represent a significant north-south corridor within the country and the Adriatic-Ionian motorway.
The country is a member of the Pan-European Corridor system. The Pan-European Corridor VIII pass through the country and starts at Durrës on the Adriatic Sea in the west continuing across the Republic of North Macedonia and Bulgaria and ends at Varna at the Black Sea in the east.
The country signed the European Agreement on Main International Traffic Arteries in 2006. The following European routes are currently defined to end at, or near, the border of Albania such as the E86, E762, E851, E852, E853.
Since antiquity, the area of Albania served as an important crossroad within the Roman Empire through the Via Pubblica and Via Egnatia. The former passed through northern Albania, while the latter linked Rome with Byzantium, through Durres on the Adriatic Sea. During World War I, occupying forces opened up new road sections mainly in the mountainous areas of the country. In King Zog's period, further road construction took place near Vlora and at Krraba Pass between Tirana and Elbasan.
The total length of Albania's roads more than doubled in the first three decades after World War II, and by the 1980s almost all of the country's remote mountain areas were connected, either by dirt or paved roads, with the capital city of Tirana, and ports on the Adriatic and Ionian Sea. Private car ownership was not allowed and the only vehicles circulating were state-owned trucks, agricultural and official's vehicles, buses, motorcycles, and bicycles. The country's roads, however, were generally narrow, poorly marked, pocked with holes, and in the early 1990s often crowded with pedestrians and people riding mules, bicycles, and horse-drawn carts.
The largest road project in the history of Albania was the construction of the A1 dual carriageway from 2007 to 2010, linking Albania with Kosovo. The segment involved the carving of a mountainous terrain, and the construction of a 5.6 km long tunnel and dozens of bridges. In 2010, Prime Minister Sali Berisha announced plans to build several major highways.
At present, major cities are linked with either single or dual carriageways or well maintained roads. There is a dual carriageway connecting the port city of Durrës with Tirana, Vlorë, and partially Kukës. In fact, there are three formal motorway segments in Albania: Thumanë-Milot-Rrëshen-Kalimash (A1), Levan-Vlorë (A2), and partly Tirane-Elbasan (A3). Most rural segments continue to remain in bad conditions as their reconstruction has only began in the late 2000s by the Albanian Development Fund.
All roads in the country are property of Albanian Road Authority (Autoriteti Rrugor Shqiptar (ARRSH)), a directorate subordinated to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure based in Tirana. Currently, cars are free of payment while driving on both motorways and expressways except on A1 motorway which has become a toll highway since March 2018. A2 and A3 are planned to become toll highways in the near future. A new road system has been introduced in the early 2000s and is classified as follows:
|The motorways are the highest level of roadway in the country, marked as A with a number on a green field.
|The state roads are the main and most common level of roadway in the country, connecting major cities marked as SH with a number on a blue field.
|The district roads are the lower level of roadway in the country found between districts roadway marked as Rr with a number on a blue field.
|The municipal roads are the lowest level of roadway in the country, typically found in rural areas and marked as K with a number on a white field though it is not observed on the ground.
Main article: Motorways in Albania
The motorways in Albania are defined by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. The country's motorway network has been extensively modernised throughout the end of the communist regime and part of it is still under construction. In the Albanian language, they are called Autostrada or Autostradë and they are defined as roads with at least two lanes in each direction. The markings have green backgrounds and are identified as consisting of letter A and the motorway number assigned by the legislation. The national speed limit on an autostradë, effective in case no other speed limits are present, is 110 kilometres per hour (68 mph).
|Durrës, Tirana, Lezhë, Kukës
|114 km (71 mi)
|Durrës, Laç, Lezhë, Rrëshen, Kukës
|The A1 (Albanian: Autostrada A1) is mostly a four traffic lane motorway, spanning 114 km (71 mi). The motorway connects the Albanian Adriatic Sea Coast at Durrës in the southwest to the Albanian Alps at Morinë in the northeast. It is currently part of the European route E851 and will form part of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway and Pan-European Corridor X.
|46.5 km (28.9 mi)
|The A2 (Albanian: Autostrada A2) is a four traffic lane motorway, spanning 46.5 km (28.9 mi). The motorway connects Fier in the north and Vlorë in the south. It will form part of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway.
|31.1 km (19.3 mi)
|The A3 (Albanian: Autostrada A3) is a four traffic lane motorway, spanning 31.1 km (19.3 mi). The motorway connects Tirana in the northwest and Elbasan in the southeast. It will form part of the Pan-European Corridor VIII.
The expressways in Albania are defined by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
|Durrës, Lezhë, Shkodër, Tirana
|125 km (78 mi)
|Fushë-Krujë, Koplik, Laç, Lezhë, Shkodër, Tirana
|The SH 1 (Albanian: Rruga Shtetërore SH 1) is an expressway, spanning 125 km (78 mi). The expressway connects Montenegro across the counties of Shkodër, Lezhë, Durrës and Tirana to the capital of Tirana. It is currently part of the European routes E762 and E851 and will form part of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway.
|33 km (21 mi)
|The SH 2 (Albanian: Rruga Shtetërore SH 2) is an expressway, spanning 33 km (21 mi). The expressway connects the capital Tirana across the counties of Durrës and Tirana to the second largest city of Durrës. It is currently part of the European route E762.
|Elbasan, Korçë, Tirana
|151 km (94 mi)
|Elbasan, Korçë, Librazhd, Pogradec, Tirana
|The SH 3 (Albanian: Rruga Shtetërore SH 3) is an expressway, spanning 151 km (94 mi). The expressway connects Greece across the counties of Elbasan, Korçë, and Tirana to the capital Tirana. It is currently part of the European routes E86 and E852.
|Durrës, Fier, Gjirokastër, Tirana
|215 km (134 mi)
|Durrës, Fier, Gjirokastër, Lushnjë, Rogozhina, Tepelenë
|The SH 4 (Albanian: Rruga Shtetërore SH 4) is a expressway, spanning 215 km (134 mi). The expressway connects Durrës across the counties of Elbasan, Korçë, and Tirana to Greece. It is currently part of the European route E853 and will form part of the Adriatic–Ionian motorway.
|40.5 km (25.2 mi)
|Elbasan, Peqin, Rogozhina
|The SH 7 (Albanian: Rruga Shtetërore SH 7) is a expressway, spanning 40.5 km (25.2 mi). The expressway connects Rogozhina across the counties of Elbasan and Tirana to Elbasan. It is currently part of the Pan-European Corridor VIII.
|148 km (92 mi)
|Fier, Himara, Sarandë, Vlorë
|The SH 8 (Albanian: Rruga Shtetërore SH 8) is a expressway, spanning 148 km (92 mi). The expressway connects Fier across the counties of Fier, Vlorë to Sarandë.
|3.2 km (2.0 mi)
|The SH 9 (Albanian: Rruga Shtetërore SH 9) is a expressway, spanning 3.2 km (2.0 mi). The expressway connects Qafë Thanë across the county of Elbasan to the Republic of Macedonia. It is currently part of the European route E852.
Following the end of communism in 1991, the highways in the country began to be modernized with the construction of the National Road 2, connecting the country's capital of Tiranë with the country's second largest city of Durrës. Since 2000, main roadways have drastically improved, though lacking standards in design and road safety. This involved the construction of new roadways, planting of trees and related greening projects, and lately the installing of contemporary signs. However, some state roads continue to deteriorate from lack of maintenance while others remain unfinished.
The priority of the first Rama government in 2014 was the completion of unfinished roadways, due to lack of funding. Another major priority was the completion of the Arbër Highway (Rruga e Arbërit), connecting Tirana with the city of Debar in the Republic of North Macedonia through the current National Road 6. Eventually, this Superstradë will become part of the Pan-European Corridor VIII, linking Albania with the Republic of North Macedonia and Greece. Another important objectives include, the completion of the problematic Tirana-Elbasan Highway part of the A3, the launching of toll highways starting with A1, and the construction of the Southern Axis of Albania Boshti i Jugut, passing across central and southern Albania. The completion of the Eastern Ring of Albania Unaza Lindore passing through Valbonë, Kukës, Krumë, Bulqizë and Librazhd has also been a priority. When all corridors are completed, Albania will have an estimated 759 kilometers of highway linking it with its neighbors.
Winter 2021-22 marked the first time that main roadways in the Albanian Alps have been open for traffic after a snowfall. Therefore, the many guesthouses of the area now are accessible in the winter as well. This came as a result of using advanced snow clearing equipment by local authorities and contractors. In recent years, winter maintenance has greatly improved in all major roadways of the country including the A1 toll motorway.
Despite considerable investments, some dual carriageways are partially up to either motorway or state road standards as they are badly configured, contain unfinished overpasses, uncontrolled access points, lack of fencing and either misplaced or missing road signs, inadequate entry and exit ramps, and are indiscriminately used by animals, mopeds, agricultural vehicles, and pedestrians. These are mostly due to alleged corruption and lack of or low quality projects and feasibility studies. It is believed that the above structural problems can be eliminated by transforming some highways to toll highway, like the A1 toll motorway in Northern Albania which has brought it to acceptable motorway standards. Works on most highways are mostly completed, though they remained unfinished between 2011 and 2013 as per lack of funds.
In March 2018, violent clashes took place at the A1 motorway toll plaza in Kalimash, Northern Albania as locals demanded lower fees on a project that was unfinished, and lacked the availability of a secondary road.
Below is a list of main roadways undergoing construction works in the last decade. The Rama 2 Government plans to standardize road projects and continue those left unfinished from previous years:
Despite the perceived negative connotation to driving in Albania, most vehicles manage not to get into accidents by simply exercising common sense and following their own way through the traffic. In cities, traffic is slow thus more secure than in rural areas. Albanian drivers are prone to using visual and acoustic aids regularly such as honking, headlight flashing, or high beams at night. Daytime running lamps must be activated outside urban areas.
It is strongly recommended to have an up-to-date GPS, as many new roads have been recently added to the Albanian road network. If the GPS does not work, a paper or internet-based map would be useful. Street names on the ground do not always coincide with maps as the current address system has been recently introduced. In the mountains, some roads can be narrow and windy with hairpins, unpaved, and missing guardrails. A portion of these roads are being gradually paved and brought to European standards by the Albanian Development Fund, FSHZH. Other roads still have few road signs or misleading ones. It's strongly advised to always keep a spare tire.
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