SIMFEROPOL (QHA) -

Instead of the bridge that was expected, Chinese investors have proposed building a high-tech underwater tunnel under the Kerch Strait to Crimea, the region's Deputy Prime Minister Yevgeniya Bavykina told news agency Kryminform.

"[Chinese investors] proposed building an underwater tunnel instead of a bridge, what's more, one that does not disturb the bottom [of the strait]," Bavykina said last week.

The tunnel would enclose two railroads and a six-lane highway, she said. The proposal comes from a Chinese state construction company that has built a comparable three-kilometer tunnel in Macau, on which the four-kilometer tunnel under the Kerch Strait would be modeled.

As for the project's financing, Bavykina said that the proposal was "significantly cheaper than other designs" and would not require any Russian investment up front.

There is currently no direct road connection between Russia and Crimea. Russian and Crimean authorities announced an ambitious plan to build a bridge over the Kerch Strait, still the project estimated at $4-6 billion was suspended.

QHA