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Safety on the New Silk Road: Assessing Kazakhstan’s Highways

For developing economies like Kazakhstan, Asia’s infrastructure push offers opportunities to improve road safety. In Kazakhstan, road crashes are estimated to cost US$ 9 billion annually, or nearly 4 percent of gross domestic product. Kazakhstan is also a keystone for regional infrastructure investment programs such as the United Nations’ Asian Highway Network, the Asian Development Bank’s Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) program, and more recently, China’s “Belt and Road” initiative. To help set priorities within these overlapping initiatives, this study analyzes 13,000 kilometers of highways, or 13.4 percent of Kazakhstan highway network. Within this sample, most roads are undivided with two lanes and rated below “good” condition. Most crashes are related to infrastructure deficiencies and noncompliance of the drivers to traffic rules and regulations. A series of maps identifies priority areas for improvement. Building on this analysis and a review of best practices, cost-effective infrastructure measures are recommended for improving connectivity and road safety.

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