The Iraqi Ministry of Housing and Construction has earmarked 11 billion Iraqi dinars for the third stage of Karbala's al-Hindiya II Bridge on the Euphrates River in the east of the city, an official source said on Saturday.
"The bridge is situated on the Euphrates River and is considered to be the main entrance to the city for those coming from southern provinces," the director of the roads and bridges department, Jamal Mohammed Redha, told Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).
The third stage includes the establishment of intersections on two levels, the director noted, estimating the cost of the first stage at 6.5 billion Iraqi dinars (1 U.S. dollar = 1,119 Iraqi dinars), and the second stage at 10 billion dinars.
"Work on the project, which began in 2006, is scheduled to be completed this year," Redha said.
"It is one of the strategic projects in Karbala province, which aims at reducing traffic congestion on al-Hindiya I Bridge during pilgrimages," Redha explained.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims converge on the city of Karbala every year to celebrate religious occasions.
Karbala, with an estimated population of 572,300 people in 2003, is the capital of the province and is considered to be one of Shiite Muslims' holiest cities.
The city, 110 km south of Baghdad, is one of Iraq's wealthiest, profiting both from religious visitors and agricultural produce, especially dates.
It is made up of two districts, "Old Karbala," the religious center, and "New Karbala," the residential district containing Islamic schools and government buildings.
At the center of the old city is Masjid al-Hussein, the tomb of Hussein Ibn Ali, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad by his daughter Fatima al-Zahraa and Ali Ibn Abi Taleb.
(Voices of Iraq)