Delayed Dhaka Elevated Expressway: Now set to open in 2022 partially
After extending the deadline several times, the authorities are now saying that they will open a portion of Dhaka Elevated Expressway to public in December next year.
"I hope that we will be able to open [the expressway] up to Tejgaon Rail Station [from Kawla near airport] next year," Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said yesterday.
The whole project would be completed by June 2023, the minister said while visiting its construction site in the capital's Banani.
"Italian-Thai [the private partner] faced acute fund crisis in the beginning, which halted progress. There is no fund-related problem now," he added.
In the last 27 months, at least three deadlines were announced for inaugurating a portion of the long-delayed project taken under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) initiative, aiming to ease congestion in the city.
Once completed fully, the 19.73km expressway stretching from Shahjalal International Airport to Kutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, with 27 ramps of around 27km, is expected to help people cross the Dhaka without facing the huge traffic congestion within the city.
The expressway construction was inaugurated twice, first by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in April 2011 for completion by mid-2014 and once again by Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader in August 2015.
However, the formal construction commencement date is January 1, 2020, the date which mark the beginning of 25 years concession era, including three and a half years construction period.
In January 2011, Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) signed a deal with Italian-Thai Development Public Company to build the expressway at a cost of Tk 8,703 crore.
The deal was revised and inked again in December 2013, with the cost revised at Tk 8,940 crore after bringing several changes to the design. The government will give Tk 2,413 crore (27 percent) as viability gap funding while the private partner will bear the rest.
Besides, the government is to spend Tk 4,885 crore on land acquisition, resettlement and relocation of utility service lines, meaning the total cost of the project is Tk 13,825 crore.
But the scheme faltered time and again over the years, mainly due to the failure of the private investor -- Italian-Thai-- to manage funds for the project, the government's delay in handing over the project, and problems related to land acquisition, said officials involved in the project.
However, the fund-related crisis was resolved after Italian-Thai handed over 49 percent of its share to two Chinese companies -- China Shandong International Economic and Technical Corporation Group (34 percent) and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd (15 percent) last year.
The much-talked about project is being implemented in three phases. The first phase is from Kawla to Banani, while the next one is from Banani to Moghbazar and the last one from Moghbazar to Kutubkhali.
Quader yesterday said the first phase witnessed 66.25 percent progress until August this year, while the second one saw 21.5 percent and the third one 2.33 percent progress.
The overall progress of the project is 30.50 percent, he added.
While visiting the project site at Kawla on Jun 18, 2019, Quader said a part of the expressway -- stretching from airport to Moghbazar -- will be opened by December 2020 after the second phase of the project is completed.
The first phase was supposed to be completed by January 2020, as per his announcement that day.
Joining a contract-signing ceremony at Setu Bhaban on February 25 last year, Quader said, "As the funding-related issue is over, we hope the work will get momentum and will move quickly towards its completion."
As per the document the project authorities shared with journalists on that day, construction work of the first phase was supposed to be completed by October 2020 and the second one by October this year. The third one was supposed to be finished in October next year.
Talking to reporters yesterday, Project Director AHMS Aktar said they had a plan to open the first phase first, but later changed the decision as vehicle owners may not be interested in using the short portion (Kawla to Banani).
So, they have decided to inaugurate around 11km portion from Kawla to Tejgaon as there are several ramps in this part, he added.
Asked about the extensions of deadlines, Quader said, "There was a funding-related problem, which is now over. I have already said this. How many times I have to tell you?"
But when he was reminded about setting the new deadline in February last year and overcoming the fund crisis and asked what was the reason behind the delay, the minister said, "What I am now saying is ground reality."
The project director said they faced problems in bringing construction materials from abroad due to the pandemic. Besides, many experts could not arrive in Dhaka on time due to this situation, he added.
In reply to a query about the design-related tussle over some pillars with Bangladesh Railway, Quader said the problem would be solved through discussion.
About the allegation of some project workers not getting paid for two months, the minister said this was unlikely to happen as there was no fund crisis.