The government is planning to turn a major section of the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway into an expressway to ensure better connectivity between the capital and Mymensingh division, where 10 economic zones will be established.
The 87-kilometre expressway from Gazipur's Joydevpur to Mymensingh will be implemented under Public Private Partnership (PPP). South Korea has accepted the project for implementation under government-to-government (G-to-G) initiative, Roads and Highways Department (RHD) officials said.
Once complete, this would be the first expressway in Bangladesh with eight lanes – four main lanes, two emergency and two service lanes, they said.
It will be the first road in the country with dedicated emergency lanes, the RHD officials added.
Between 2011-2016, the government had upgraded the two-lane Dhaka-Mymensingh highway to a four-lane one spending Tk 1,800 crore.
At least 193 intersections, 28 school zones and many markets and other structures along 16.5 km of the four-lane highway are slowing down traffic on the road, said Shishir Kanti Routh, additional chief engineer of RHD, quoting a road safety audit conducted by his department in 2017-2018.
The average daily traffic on the highway in 2019 was 27,663, he said.
Shishir, also a member of RHD's PPP cell, predicted that the traffic on the highway will increase once economic zones are established in Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sherpur and Jamalpur districts. There are three or four land ports in the districts.
For the first time, the RHD also plans to install an Intelligent Transport System (ITS) on the expressway to immediately learn about the news of any accident or other incidents. It will allow the department to take quick action to prevent disruption to traffic, he added.
Although the probable cost and duration of the new project has not been assessed yet, an RHD official said it may take Tk 3,000-4,000 crores. As the project would not require too much land, the duration of the project would be relatively short, he said.
Meanwhile, the government is also implementing a project for rapid bus service, whereby buses will use dedicated lanes, on the other portion of the four-lane Dhaka-Mymensingh highway from Shahjalal International Airport to Gazipur.
SOUTH KOREA ACCEPTED THE PROJECT
Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA) and Korea Overseas Infrastructure and Urban Development (KIND), a Korean organisation for providing support to global PPP businesses, signed a memorandum of understanding in April last year.
RHD submitted two projects and Korea so far accepted the Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway project, RHD Chief Engineer Ashraful Alam told The Daily Star on March 7.
The project proposal was then sent to the PPPA via the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry, he added.
PPPA Chief Executive Officer Muhammad Alkama Siddiqui told this newspaper on March 7 that they have already endorsed and recommended the project for submission to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) for in-principle approval.
He said once approved, they would hire an adviser and carry out a detailed feasibility study, physical and financial assessment within the shortest possible time.
The ministry would soon send the proposal to CCEA for approval, a ministry official said.
He added that South Korea has already selected three companies -- SK E&C, Korean Expressway Corporation and Cotte E&C -- for implementing the project. SK E&C will be the lead company.
An expressway is a highway especially planned for high-speed traffic, usually with no or very few intersections, limited points of access or exit, and a divider between lanes for traffic moving in opposite directions.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on March 12 opened the country's first-ever expressway from Dhaka to Faridpur's Bhanga upazila. However, users will get the full benefit of the expressway once the construction work of Padma bridge is complete.
The government had also planned to construct an expressway parallel to the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway, but changed its decision last year.
Now priority is being given to a high-speed train project between Dhaka and the port city, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said recently.