World War I ends in Europe in November 1918. Habsburg monarchy collapses a few weeks earlier and the Republic of Czechoslovakia is declared on October 28, 1918. Government fastly secures the boarder, consolidates currency, stabilizes economy and brings the country among ten most developed industrial nations of the world in the interwar period.

Increasing automobile traffic in 1930’s triggers the first discussions on development of the new roads suitable for motor vehicles. First plans are unveiled in 1935. „Backbone“ road shall connect the country from West to East, from most western town Cheb through Czech Lands, Slovakia to most Eastern Transcarpathia. Strategically, this superroad was intended to continue to the Romanian ports of Black Sea in order to provide sea access for the landlocked country.

In 1937, owner of shoemaking empire Jan A. Baťa sponsors another detailed plan of West-East highway. Government and public opinion buy in and first preparatory works are commenced.

In autumn 1938, following infamous treaty of Munich, Czechoslovakia is loosing its boarder regions in favour of Hitler‘s Germany. Natural communication routes are cut – the country badly needs the new highway. Projects are finalized at the beginning of 1939 and preparatory works in the sectors between Prague and Humpolec as well as in the Moravian highland of Chřiby start immediately. A new Czech word for this kind of motorway is codified: „dálnice“. („Dálný“ literary means „remote“ – i.e. road connecting remote destinations).

On March 15, 1939, Nazis occupy the Czech Lands. However, this doesn’t stop the project.

On May 2, 1939, in the sector closest to Prague, the construction begins with official kick off, being witnessed by a number of journalists and newsreel cameras. Work is commenced at other sectors during May, too. Despite lower availability of workforce and delayed deliveries of special construction machines, mainly surface finishers, from Germany (at the end, they were never delivered) it is expected that first sectors will be finished by October 30, 1940.

In August 1939 are prepared first plans of complete national highway network. Priorities are as follows:

I.                Prague circular highway, Prague – Brno – Zlín – Slovakia

II.               Prague – Lovosice – Germany, Prague – Plzeň – Karlovy Vary - Regensburg

III.              Prague – Hradec Králové – Náchod – exteritorial highway Breslau – Vienna, Prague – České Budějovice - Linz    

September 1, 1939, World War II breaks out. So far it affects the construction very little. New sectors are being assigned to the construction companies including largest arc bridge Šmejkalka cca 30 kms from Prague. At the same time, Nazi Germany is preparing the so called exteritorial highway from Breslau through occupied Moravia via Brno to Vienna. Czech highway and exteritorial highway will cross at intersection by the city of Brno.

With the end of building season 1939 work is quite advanced and first concrete surfaces of service lanes are being layed.   

At the beginning of 1940 is still observed the plan of having first sectors of highway in service by the end of the year. First problems appear – deliveries of materials is being delayed and planners struggle with steep routing of higway in the highlands of Chřiby.With the end of 1940 is the highway under construction at 11 sectors in Bohemia and 3 sectors in Moravia.

In 1941, bridges in most of sectors are being finalized and specific sectors are getting ready for laying of final concrete surface. First sectors of Prague circular highway are assigned, too.

In August 1, 1941, construction of any new site is halted. End of October brings another obstacle – usage of cement is forbidden.

With advance of war, by April 30, 1942 are all works stopped – exception are three largest arc bridges – Šmejkalka, Borovsko and Píšť. During 1942, the bridges are conservated. Work stops completely.


May 1945 – war ends. Military operations made no serious damage and so the entire sites are being inspected, cleaned, maintained and prepared for restart of construction.


Highway is included into post-war restoration plan and in 1946 construction starts fully again.

New technologies are used – in 1947 is finished first bridge of pre-stressed concrete.


In 1948, communists seize the power in Czechoslovakia. The iron curtain slowly pulls down. Cold war begins, investments go now mainly to the heavy and arms industry and the highway is being abandoned the second time. In 1950 is the project stopped again and dozens of kilometres of the highway body and almost finished bridges are senteced to a slow dilapidation.


End of 1950’s sees massive increase of individual motoring. Automobile manufacturing is one of the country’s strongest industries and almost everybody can now purchase a car. Capacity of old roads is filled up. General highway plan is approved in 1963 – the highway network follows mostly the 1939 plan. Highest priority is given again to the West-East connection – named D1.


Construction of D1 begins in 1967 – the third time in its history, people and machines return to the sites. First sector between Prague and Mirošovice is open on July 12, 1971. 32 years after the first dig, Czechs can now chase their cars on the highway. By 1980, over 300 kms among Prague-Brno (D1) and Brno-Bratislava (D2) are finished.

Construction of D1 continues eastwards from Brno towards Slovakia, under the High Tatras and also connects large towns of Prešov and Košice in Eastern Slovakia.


Iron curtain falls in 1989 and Federation of Czechoslovakia is agreed to terminate by the end of 1992.

Plans are updated and new priorities set up. Czech Republic will carry on the following highways:

D1: Prague-Brno-Ostrava-Poland (to be completed in 2009)

D2: Brno-Slovakia (completed)

D3: Prague-České Budějovice-Austria (least advanced highway – only cca 15 kms completed or under construction)

D5: Prague-Plzeň-Germany (completed)

D8: Prague-Ústí nad Labem-Germany (to be completed in 2008)

D11: Prague-Hradec Králové-Poland (to be completed after 2010)

Besides that, network of „speed roads“ marked as R is being extended (R1, R4, R6, R7, R10, R35, R48, R52, R55, R56). In reality, these are highways, too. They are built under quite high standard, always 4 lanes, directionally separated by railings, almost solely with entry, exit and service lanes. Same rules and maximum speed are valid for D and R rated highways as well.


autor © Tomáš Janda, 8. listopadu 2002.
autor english version © Martin Panský, 26.8.2006.
poslední změny na stránce: 26. října 2008