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The once-besieged highway from Baghdad International Airport to the city will undergo a $50 million makeover, city officials said.

The highway, part of which the U.S. military calls "Route Irish," had been heavily targeted by insurgents, who used roadside bombs, rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire to attack military convoys and other vehicles.

The road will be paved from the International Zone into part of the airport itself, a total of about 7.5 miles, according to Lt. Col. Steve Stover, spokesman for Multi-National Division-Baghdad.

The city will install guard rails, traffic signs, security fences and landscape walls, according to information supplied by MND-B. Four U-turn areas and U-turn acceleration and deceleration lanes are planned. Medians and shoulders will be landscaped.

Coalition forces will remove debris, move T-walls, provide security for city workers, build a parking area, and make security improvements.

Iraqi funds will be used to pay for the project, Stover said.

Saber al-Esawi, the mayor of Baghdad, said Iraqi security forces played a "huge role" in chasing out insurgents and making the area safer.

"They lost many soldiers in the process," al-Esawi said in a press release issued by MND-B. "The residents took notice and know that without that support, they would have no projects."

The project is possible because of improved security in the Rashid district of Baghdad, according to Col. Ted Martin, commander of the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.

The mayor and U.S. military officials held a ground-breaking ceremony for the project Saturday in the median of the road.


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