MOSCOW, May 5 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian government is examining the possibility of bringing the overall length of the country's motor roads to 850,000 kilometers, up from the current 599,000.

A source in the government told RIA Novosti that the extension is provided for in the blueprints for a national program to upgrade and develop Russia's highway infrastructure. The draft program will be discussed at tomorrow's Cabinet session, he said.

According to the source, one of the most important tasks to cope with will be the elimination of gaps in the motorways between Moscow and Vladivostok (on Russia's Pacific Coast), including by constructing a through passage on the Chita-Khabarovsk route.

This task will be possible to fulfill by 2006 or 2007, our interviewee said.

Other priority tasks include the renovation of highways linking Moscow with Minsk and St. Petersburg, as well as of the federal highways leading to Rostov-on-Don and to the Urals.

"The program's total cost will be estimated during Cabinet deliberations. There are four options for estimating costs: basic, worst-case scenario, economic, and best-case scenario;" most probably, trillions of rubles [the dollar trades at 29 rubles, on current rates] will have to be invested in the program, he said.

According to the source, the draft program lays down financing mechanisms, but offers no figures. "Nothing new can be made up here; this is all about contributions from budgets of various levels and investments, to be rewarded with tax breaks, specifically with regard to the use of land on federal motorways," he said.

The draft program has been put together by the Transportation and Communications Ministry, the Industries and Energy Ministry, the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, the Finance Ministry, and the Defense Ministry.

The share of toll highways in this country should not exceed 1 or 2 percent of the total, the source assured. That percentage is common to all developed countries, including France, where there are more turnpike roads than elsewhere in the world, he added.

As our interviewee revealed, the blueprints envisage the construction of turnpikes at the entry to Moscow from the Minsk highway and at some sections of the Moscow-St. Petersburg highway.

Toll highways are up and running already in the Lipetsk region, south of Moscow. But other turnpikes will be built only near large cities of federal status, the source said.

For a toll highway to pay off, 40,000 to 50,000 cars should pass through daily. There are few such roads in Russia, the source explained.

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