A year and a half ago, in November 2007, visible construction work began on the ITER Itinerary. Preparatory work had started almost two years earlier, with archaeological surveys, real estate appropriations, public inquiries and negotiations with all the parties concerned by the works. "And there were lots of parties involved," says Nadia Fabre, the ITER Itinerary Project Manager within Mission ITER/Office of Regional Infrastructures. "The electricity, gas and telephone authorities; the national railway system; the Port Authority; the Canal de Provence; you name them ..."
Today, the works have entered their final phase. In November this year, the 106 kilometre-long itinerary will be finished, allowing for the first test convoy to be organized. "Considering all the bad weather we had to cope with in the past twelve months, we've done rather well," says Nadia. "But we still have to complete the new harbour at the Port de la Pointe on the Étang de Berre, the finishing works on two bridges in Lambesc and Jouques and the fording of the Arc River in Berre."
Preparation and anticipation is essential in complex projects like the ITER itinerary. "But you can't anticipate everything," says Nadia, who sees herself as the conductor of the "orchestra." In some places, the bedrock was located much deeper than the borings had indicated. In others, the mapping of the underground water, gas and electricity networks lacked precision. "At the Port de la Pointe, the harbour we're building is located between an oil tanker port and a gas terminal, and we can't work when ships are docking. But their schedule is often unreliable — you plan on an arrival on Monday and the ship shows up the following Wednesday..."
For public works of this size and complexity, however, delays have been almost negligible. For Nadia, rising to the challenge came with a reward: she's been put in charge of all major roadworks in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, which includes the long-delayed bypass highway north of Marseille (Rocade L2), the tunnel through downtown Toulon, another one in Tende, on the French-Italian border, and several motorway projects in Avignon, Nice, Arles and the southern Alps. "All in all, it adds up to something like ten ITER Itineraries—quite an exciting experience!"