Egypt's transportation system is well developed, with 64,000 km (39,770 mi) of roads in 2002, of which about 50,000 km (31,070 mi) were paved. In 2000, 758,500 passenger cars and 514,100 commercial vehicles were registered. In 1982, in an attempt to alleviate Cairo's notorious traffic congestion, work began on a city subway system. The first phase, 5 km (3 mi) long, was completed in 1987 at a cost of some $370 million; Cairo Metro, modeled after the Paris Metro, is the first subway to be built in Africa. Alexandria and Cairo are connected by both the Western Desert Highway, a high-speed toll road and the busier Delta Road. Railroads are managed by the state-owned Egyptian Railways, founded in 1852. Track totaling some 4,955 km (3,079 mi) links all parts of the country. Steamer service on the Nile is an important means of domestic transport, as are 3,500 km (2,175 mi) of navigable canals. Alexandria and Port Sa'id are the principal ports. Egypt's oceangoing merchant fleet of 175 ships totaled 1,331,186 GRT in 2002.
Attempts to link the Mediterranean Sea with the Gulf of Suez and the Red Sea date back at least 4,000 years. The modern Suez Canal, about 193.5 km (120 mi) long (including approaches), was constructed between 1859 and 1869 under the supervision of the French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps. Great Britain became the canal's leading shareholder in 1875. Under the Constantinople Convention (1888), Britain became the guarantor of the canal's neutrality; management of the canal was entrusted to the privately owned Suez Canal Co. British rights over the canal were reaffirmed in the Anglo-Egyptian Treaty of 1936, then repudiated by Egypt in 1951. In 1956, at Egypt's insistence, the British withdrew from the area, and Egypt nationalized the canal and placed it under the management of the Suez Canal Authority, which had paid former stockholders $64 million by 1963. The canal was closed during the 1967 war with Israel and remained closed until 5 June 1975, when it resumed operations after having been cleared of mines and debris by teams of US, UK, and Egyptian engineers. During its first six months after resuming operations, the canal provided passage for a substantial number of dry-cargo ships but was used by only a comparatively small number of oil tankers, since the newer supertankers could not navigate the canal's 38-ft depth. The first phase of a project to widen and deepen the canal was completed in 1980, permitting ships of 53-ft draft (up to 150,000 tons) to pass through. The second phase includes increasing the navigable depth to 67 ft (up to 270,000 tons). Egypt also announced plans to build five tunnels under the canal and dig a second channel to permit the two-way passage of convoys; the first tunnel at the southern end of the canal was opened to traffic in 1980. In 1990/91, the Suez Canal Authority earned about $1.8 billion in revenue, more than in any other year.
Cairo International Airport is used by numerous international airlines, including Egypt's own Egypt Air; in 2001, 4,389,200 passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights. In 2001, Egypt had a total of 92 airports, 71 of which had paved runways.