Instead of the bridge that was expected, Chinese investors have proposed building a high-tech underwater tunnel under the Kerch Strait to Crimea, the region's Deputy Prime Minister Yevgeniya Bavykina told news agency Kryminform.
"[Chinese investors] proposed building an underwater tunnel instead of a bridge, what's more, one that does not disturb the bottom [of the strait]," Bavykina said last week.
The tunnel would enclose two railroads and a six-lane highway, she said. The proposal comes from a Chinese state construction company that has built a comparable three-kilometer tunnel in Macau, on which the four-kilometer tunnel under the Kerch Strait would be modeled.
As for the project's financing, Bavykina said that the proposal was "significantly cheaper than other designs" and would not require any Russian investment up front.
"The financing would come from the Bank of China, so Russia would not have to invest anything now, the government's guarantee to return the money according to a certain schedule would be enough," she said.
The tunnel would take about 2 1/2 years to build, during which time construction would not interfere with ferry traffic on the water's surface, she said.
There is currently no direct road connection between Russia and Crimea, meaning that other than air travel, ferries are the only available mode of transport.
Construction experts hired by state road builder Avtodor said previously that building a bridge across the Kerch Strait would cost about 283 billion rubles ($8 billion), a burden expected to fall largely or entirely on the shoulders of Russia's state budget.