Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway: Work to start next month
The physical work of another elevated expressway, which will facilitate vehicles' quick entry and exit to and from the capital, is likely to start next month as the uncertainty over Chinese funding is now over.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last week gave the go-ahead to the draft loan agreement for the project called Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway. The development came after Chinese EXIM Bank approved the long-delayed loan of $1.2 billion, or Tk 10,226.53 crore, for the expressway, said project officials.
China will provide 65 percent of the total project cost of Tk 16,901 crore, they said.
Project Director Shahabuddin Khan said the finance ministry's Economic Relations Division (ERD) and the Chinese bank were likely to sign the loan agreement this month. "We hope that the project's physical work will begin next month," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
A finance ministry official, who is aware of developments, also confirmed to this newspaper that the agreement was likely to be signed within this month.
Once built, the 24-kilometre expressway will connect Hazrat Shahjahal International Airport with Abdullahpur, Ashulia, Baipail and Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) on the Nabinagar-Chandra highway. Vehicles will have to pay toll, said project officials.
It will allow people from 30 districts to enter and exit the capital quickly and easily. It is also expected to boost the country's gross domestic product by 0.21 percent, shows project documents.
Another expressway -- Dhaka Elevated Expressway -- is being constructed to link the airport to the Dhaka-Chattogram highway at Kutubkhali point. The revised schedule for opening the 20km expressway -- Airport-Banani-Moghbazar-Kamalapur-Sayedabad-Jatrabari-Kutubkhali -- is June 2023.
Once both elevated expressways are operational, people from the country's northern, western and south-western regions will be able to avoid the capital's perennial traffic jam as they will go from one side of the city to another without having to travel on the existing city streets.
Trucks and Lorries, which are now barred from entering the city during the day to curb traffic jams, will also use them.
The work of the 24km Dhaka-Ashulia expressway was set to start four years ago following the project's approval by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec). The work was scheduled to be completed by June next year.
The physical work, however, could not begin as the Chinese authorities delayed in approving the loan.
Now, the project authorities want to complete the work within four years.
The government had initially decided to implement the project under Public Private Partnership and the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs okayed it in July 2011.
At that time, the proposed length of the expressway was decided to be 34km and the project cost $2 billion.
But changes were made in both the design and the mode of funding, said sources aware of the matter.
The government then decided to implement the project under a government-to-government (G2G) agreement with China.
This project then became among 27 projects for which China assured of providing a loan of $20 billion as per a memorandum of understanding signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Dhaka in October 2016.
In October 2017, the Ecnec gave the go-ahead to the project and the deadline was fixed for June 2022.
In August 2017, Bangladesh Bridge Authority signed a contract with China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation to implement the project.
But the project work could not begin as the loan application sent to the Chinese authorities in October 2018 remained pending.
Talking to journalists at Setu Bhaban on July 11 2019, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said he hoped that the construction work would begin in December that year, which did not happen.
WORK TO START NEXT MONTH
Sources said the Chinese EXIM Bank approved the loan in November last year and then both sides held negotiations on the draft loan agreement.
After the law ministry vetted the draft, it was sent to the Prime Minister's Office, which gave the green signal on September 2, the sources said.
Project Director Shahabuddin Khan said the uncertainty over the funding was over and that the contractor had already started some work, including fixing alignments and design of the expressway, in April this year.
The physical work is expected to begin next month with the construction of the first pier platform in Dhour area, he said.
As per the contract, the Chinese contractor will get maximum 62 months to complete the work once the agreement is signed, the PD said.
"However, we will try to complete the project within four years as we have already completed some work," he added.
Under the project, 10.83km of ramps, two 1.95km long flyovers, 14.28km of four-lane roads and 18km of drains on both sides of the expressway would be built, said project officials.
As his attention was drawn to the expressway, prominent transport expert Prof Shamsul Hoque said the project's success would depend on the complete implementation of the two projects.
Once both expressways are built, they will be able to play a significant role in boosting the country's economy and ease traffic congestion in Dhaka city, he said.
He said a huge number of ready-made garment factories were in Savar, Ashulia and adjacent areas and that they would be able to transport their products to Chattogram via these expressways day and night.
"However, the new expressway will be feasible once the project to construct the first one [Airport-Kutubkhali] is implemented fully," Prof Shamsul of Buet's civil engineering department also said.
Dhaka Elevated Expressway is being implemented in three phases -- Airport to Banani; Banani to Moghbazar and Moghbazar to Kutubkhali -- and the implementation of the last two phases, especially the third one, is encountering many problems over fixing alignments, he said.
These problems need to be addressed soon, he said, adding anything otherwise would impact the other project.