Opening of three new bridges on the Shitalakkhya, Meghna and Gumti rivers will reduce bottlenecks on Dhaka-Chittagong highway early next year.
Officials hope the four-lane bridges alongside the existing Kanchpur, Meghna and Meghna-Gumti bridges will bring an end to sufferings the passengers have been experiencing for years on the country's busiest highway.
Officials believe the new bridges will be ready for use by next January or February as construction work has been accelerated.
Ibne Alam Hasan, chief engineer of Roads and Highways Department (RHD), said they were trying hard to finish the construction of the bridges by the end of this year.
He said the new Kanchpur bridge would be the first to be ready for use. “We are hoping construction of the 400-metre bridge will complete by December.”
According to RHD officials, construction of the 930 metre-long Meghna and 1,410 metre-long Meghna-Gumti bridges may take a couple of more months.
Visiting the construction sites earlier this month, this correspondent saw that work was going on in full swing. Some parts of the bridges were already visible.
Out of the five spans of the Kanchpur bridge, workers have already installed two. Two workers said they would need another two months to install the rest of the spans.
Four out of the 12 spans of the Meghna bridge have been installed and four out of the 17 spans of the Meghna-Gumti bridge have been set in place so far.
Another RHD official said they were trying to complete the construction of the three bridges four to five months ahead of the June 2019 deadline.
Road communication expert Prof Moazzem Hossain of the Buet's civil engineering department said, “We see how the movement of traffic is being hampered on the Dhaka-Chittagong highway even after its expansion into a four lane one. Movement of motorised and non-motorised vehicles is causing the problem.”
He suggested that the authorities should ensure that full-potential of the road and bridges is utilised.
Pace of the construction of the new bridges slowed down after the terror attack in the capital's Holey Artisan Bakery in July 2016. However, the project officials later sped up the construction works.
EXAMPLE FOR OTHER PROJECTS
Unlike other major infrastructure projects, construction of the three bridges will be done within or before the deadline at a cost lower than what was estimated in the development project proforma (DPP).
The project cost was estimated at Tk 8,487 crore, of which Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) was supposed to provide Tk 6,430 crore. Before signing deals with four Japanese firms in November 2015, the total cost came down to Tk 7,677 crore, thanks to strong negotiations by the project officials.
Project officials said the cost would further come down as the consultancy fee (Tk 510 crore) and customs duty VAT (Tk 1,200 crore) would be reduced.
Japanese contractors Obayshi Corporation, Shimizu Corporation, JFE Engineer Corporation, and IHI Infra Systems Company Ltd had started the constructions in January 2016.
Under the project, the existing Kanchpur, Meghna and Meghna-Gumti bridges would also be fully refurbished. The Japanese firms would start restoring the old bridges after completing the construction of the new bridges. The job will be done in two years.