Lack of fund, land acquisition blamed for delay
Zahid Hosssain Biplob: The people will be able to utilise the first section of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway by next year, according to the Bangladesh Bridges Authority.
Dhaka Elevated Expressway is Bangladesh’s first elevated expressway project, will connect the Shahjalal International Airport with Kutubkhali via Mohakhali, Tejgaon and Kamalapur of the capital.
It is one of the largest infrastructure projects taken up by the incumbent government to ease traffic congestion in the capital. It will be 46.73 km (153,300 ft) long including the connecting roads and will cost around Tk 122 billion (US$1.4 billion).
According to sources, the first PPP project of the country was stuck in limbo after the foreign partner found no funding and the contractor backed out and the government in the last seven years had failed to issue the work order for the 47km Dhaka Elevated Expressway (DEE) even though its construction was inaugurated twice.
However, the first section of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway is extending from the airport to Banani over a 7.45 km stretch.
The work of the project stalled mainly for financial problem but the implementation work is now progressing in full swing, they said.
The said project has been split in three parts. The first section extends from the airport to Banani and covers 7.45 kilometres, the second from Banani to Moghbazar is 5.85 kilometres and the third section extends for 6.43 kilometres from Moghbazar to Kutubkhali.
It will be completed in its entirety within two and a half years, the authority said.
The work of the project began in 2011 but hit several snags since then, with only 22 percent of the construction work being completed in the past 8 years.
Almost 50 percent work on the first part of expressway has been completed, AHMS Akhter, director of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway Project told the Daily Industry.
“It will open to traffic in September next year. We hope the full project will be completed by March 2022”, he said.
Although the project’s deadline has been extended several times, the changes will not raise costs, according to the bridge authority.
The Bridges Department signed a contract with the Ital-Thai Development Company to construct the Dhaka Elevated Expressway on Jan 19, 2011 and the prime minister laid the foundation stone of the project on Apr 30 the same year.
The project had stalled for two years due to complications with land acquisition. The contract had to be renewed with the construction company in 2013 as the project cost soared due to inflation and design changes.
The land survey for the project started after the contract was renewed. Road Transport and Bridges Minister ObaidulQuader flagged off the construction work twice in 2014 and 2015.
The project progressed at a slow pace as the construction company failed to procure the requisite funds. The project got back on its feet once Ital-Thai went form a partnership with two other companies.
Ital-Thai now owns 51 percent of the project while China Shengdong International Economic and Technical Company Group Limited owns 35 percent and Sino Hydro 14 percent, respectively.
The new partners have begun to release funds for the project, said AHMS Akhter. China Shengdong already gave $11.48 million and Sino Hydro $5.11 million on Jul 31. The two organisations will disburse a further $40 million in September and $70 million in October last.
The first phase of the project will be completed by September 2020 and part of the expressway up to Banani will be opened to traffic, said the project director.
Land acquisition for the second phase is complete. Different structures along the stretch from Banani to Moghbazar have been removed. Construction of this part will begin in the first week of October.
The third phase of construction will start in six months time.
Construction of at least 1,333 piles, 307 pile caps, 93 cross-beams, 201 completed columns and 131 partially completed columns, 186 eye-guarder and 14 spans are completed.
The bdnews24.comreporter found 147 guarders from the pier No. 1 to 15 during a visit to the airport area. The main structure or deck slab of the expressway will be constructed on the guarders.
Initially, the toll plan was Tk100 for car-microbus, Tk200 for big bus, Tk300 for truck for the ride from Airport to Banani, which experts find not viable. Later, a toll of Tk125 was set for car-microbus, Tk250 for bus, and Tk500 for trucks, for the 26-km expressway.
Motorbikes will not be allowed on Dhaka Elevated Expressway. No overloaded truck will also be allowed. Portable way bridge or weighing measurement equipment will be installed for revenue.
A total of 11 toll plazas will be set up on the entire stretch of the expressway. Of them, five will be on the expressway and the rest on the entry and exit points.
The expressway is expected to reduce traffic inside and surrounding areas of Dhaka. The route will connect Airport, Kuril, Banani, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Moghbazar, Kamalapur, Sayedabad, Jatrabari-Kutubkhali points with Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.
Initially, this project was due to end between 2010 and 2014, which was later extended up to December 2016. Eventually, the deadline was shifted to 2022.
It will take only 20 minutes from Airport to Kutubkhali once the expressway opens to traffic, experts say.
Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, who is heading the panel of experts of the country’s large infrastructure projects said non-availability of funds and lack of cooperation of railway authorities in setting up alignment from Kamalapur Rail Station towards Kutubkhali as the main impediments.
However, several city dwellers told the correspondent that the authorities concerned have to undertake necessary steps to complete the mega projects timely which would help reducing traffic congestion from the city.