Argentine finance minister Alfonso Prat-Gay is headed to Chile this week to work on advancing the project for the construction of the Agua Negra binational tunnel, which involves estimated investments of US$1.6bn.
Prat Gay will meet with Chile's public works minister Alberto Undurraga and his Chilean counterpart Rodrigo Valdés, Argentine state news agency Télam reported. The minister will also be present for the start of the prequalification process for the design and construction of the tunnel.
The binational tunnel is aimed at improving integration between the two countries connecting Argentina's San Juan province and Chile's Coquimbo region (IV) and will reduce the cost of transport of goods between the nations and particularly towards the Pacific.
"The Agua Negra tunnel is a priority goal of President Mauricio Macri's government," declared Prat-Gay back in May while visiting the project location, adding "infrastructure is one of the central axes of our economic program."
The tunnel, which was initially proposed in 1996, is a central point in the wider project of the Porto Alegre-Coquimbo bioceanic corridor that looks for more efficient socioeconomic connections between Argentina, Brazil and Chile.
It is estimated that the corridor's direct region of influence will add a total of approximately US$252bn to the regional GDP of the three countries.
Bids from qualified firms are expected by next May, with the winning group announced in early 2018 and works could start in early 2019, taking 8-10 years.
The tunnel construction is considered one of the most important infrastructure projects being executed in both countries and will be financed by the Inter-American development bank (IDB).