In 1987 Albania had
about 6,700 kilometers of paved roads and between 9,000 and about
15,000 kilometers of other roads suitable for motor vehicles .
The total length of Albania's roads had more than doubled in about
three decades, and by the 1980s almost all of the country's remote
mountain areas were connected, at least by dirt roads, with the
capital city and ports. 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. Even in tiny villages, hundreds of people
of all ages gathered daily along main roads waving their arms
seeking rides, and gangs of children often blocked rural highways
hoping to coax foreign travelers into tossing them candy. Heavy
snowfalls cut off some mountain areas for weeks at a time. Central
government funding of local road maintenance effectively ended
in 1991, and the breakdown of repair vehicles because of a lack
of spare parts threatened to close access to some remote areas.
A group of Greek construction companies signed a protocol with
the Albanian government in July 1990 to build a 200- kilometer
road across the southern part of the country, extending from the
Albanian-Greek border to Durrės. The project was scheduled to
last four years and cost US$500 million.
Despite the appalling quality of Albania's roads, most of the
country's freight was conveyed over them in a fleet of about 15,000
smoke-belching trucks. According to official figures, in 1987
Albania's roadways carried about 66 percent of the country's total
freight tonnage. In 1991 the Albanian government lifted the decades-old
ban on private-vehicle ownership. The country's roads, once almost
devoid of motor traffic, began filling up with recklessly driven
cars that had been snapped up in used-car lots across Europe.
Car imports numbered about 1,500 per month, and a black-market
car lot began operating just off Tiranė's main square. Traffic
in the capital remained light, but traffic lights and other control
devices were urgently needed to deal with the multiplying number
of privately owned cars. Albanian entrepreneurs also imported
used Greek buses and started carrying passengers on intercity
routes that did not exist or had been poorly serviced during the
communist era. Gangs of hijackers and thieves, who preyed on truck
and automobile traffic, made road travel hazardous in some regions.
Data as of April 1992