The Bridges Division plans on opening the Airport-Tejgaon segment of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway by December this year.
To this end, construction work is going on at full throttle round the clock at the Airport, Kawla, Kuril, Joarsahara, Banani, Mohakhali and Tejgaon sites of the project.
Meanwhile, construction on the elevated road in the Airport-Banani portion is 59% complete. On the other hand, the Banani-Moghbazar portion of the expressway has made 9% progress.
In the meantime, the start of construction work on the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport has brought to the fore the issue of a revision of the design of that section of the road in order to connect the third terminal with the expressway.
Experts, however, think if the elevated road is lowered at the centre of the capital, there might be increased traffic congestions in the area.
They advise the authorities concerned not to impose any decision on the financing agency in this regard.
At a recent meeting of the project implementation committee held at the Bridges Division, Project Director Md Moniruzzaman said work on the entire project would be completed by June 2023.
He also instructed the stakeholders concerned to expedite the physical progress of the project in a bid to open the Airport-Tejgaon portion of the expressway by December next.
According to sources at the Bridges Division, the project was undertaken in 2011 to build a four-lane flyover from the capital's Airport Road to the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway at Kutubkhali on a public-private partnership (PPP) basis.
Under the project, 31 ramps with a length of 27 kilometres will be constructed along with the 19.73-kilometre main road. In all, the length of the flyover will be 46.73 km.
The expressway is being constructed in three phases. In the first phase, the length of the road from Airport to Banani railway station is 7.45 kilometres. In this phase, installations of 1,452 out of 1,500 piles, 260 out of 350 pile caps, 149 out of 350 cross beams, 227 out of 350 columns, and 605 out of 3,154 eye girders have already been completed. The physical progress of this part is 59%.
In the second phase, the road will be constructed on the Banani to Moghbazar rail crossing, while the Moghbazar-Kutubkhali portion of the flyover will be constructed in the third and final phase.
The project director said the land required for the second phase had been acquired and handed over to the construction company. Work on 602 piles and 15 pile caps had been completed in this portion, while the physical progress made was 9%.
A proposal for land acquisition for the third phase has been sent to the Ministry of Land. Besides, the Bangladesh Army is working to shift the existing installations and utilities in the alignment of the road under construction.
The construction cost of the flyover is estimated at Tk 8,940 crore. The Italian-Thai Development Company is financing and constructing the project.
Once this project is completed, alternative road communication systems will be established in the northern and southern sides of the capital. Vehicles from the east, including Chattogram and Sylhet and those from the south-western part of the country, will be able to enter the north-western region directly through the Padma Bridge, thereby avoiding traffic jams in Dhaka.
On the other hand, vehicles coming from the north will be able to travel directly to the south and south-west avoiding traffic jams. This will reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka and its surrounding areas.
According to the government's Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP), about 80,000 vehicles will be able to travel on the elevated expressway every day. The entire expressway will have 11 toll plazas, five of which will be on the expressway.
Recommendation to extend the project to Hanif Flyover
In the light of recommendations made at a meeting at the Prime Minister's Office, it has been decided to extend the under-construction road to Haritjheel, Hotel Sonargaon, Hatirpul, Katabon and Palashi intersection via Dhaka University.
However, a deputy secretary of the Physical Infrastructure Department of the Planning Commission, who was present at the PIC meeting, suggested extending the flyover to Mayor Hanif Flyover to ensure maximum benefit from this link.
As there is no scope for major variations in the work of the PPP agreement, however, the project director suggested implementing the newly recommended part in another phase (fourth phase) without adding it to the original project.
Costs of supportive projects on the rise
The cost and duration of the Support to Dhaka Elevated Expressway PPP project, which was taken to help build the road on a PPP basis, will see another hike.
Recently, the Bridges Division sent a proposal for the second amendment of the project to the Ministry of Planning, estimating the cost at Tk4,917.57 crore. The cost of the project was estimated at Tk4,889 crore in the latest amendment.
The cost of the project, which was approved in 2011 to complete the road construction, including land acquisition, infrastructure and utility transfer by 2014, had been estimated at Tk3,216.87 crore. Compared to the original project, the total cost is set to increase by Tk1,700.70 crore or 53% to be precise.
The duration of this support project will be extended till June 2024. As such, it will take ten and a half years' extra time.
End of long complications
On 19 January 2011, the Bridges Division signed an agreement with the Italian-Thai Development Company on the construction of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway.
On 30 April of that year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of the project. But due to various complications including financial crisis, work on this project worth about Tk9,000 crore remained in limbo for a long time.
After that, work was stalled for two years due to complexities related to land acquisition. Due to design changes and rising project costs induced by inflation, a new contract had to be signed with the construction company in the mid-2013.
The land survey started in the same year after the amendment of the agreement.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader inaugurated construction work twice – on 30 October 2014 and 16 August 2015. The construction work continued slowly as the construction company could not arrange the required funds.
The project director said the construction firm managed to come out of the financial crisis after taking two companies as partners in the project.
The Italian-Thai Development Company now owns 51% of the project. China's Shandong International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group Limited has a 35% stake and Sino Hydro has a 14% stake.
What people concerned say
Belayet Hossain, secretary of the Bridges Division, told The Business Standard work in the first phase of the project was in its final stage.
Apart from that, work of the second part was also going on fast as there was no crisis of land and money, he added. He expressed the hope that the Airport-Tejgaon segment of the expressway would be opened this year.
He went on to state that the target had been set in consultation with the financing company. "They have reassured us that this goal will be achieved if everything goes well."
Regarding the Airport area, he said construction on the elevated expressway started before the construction of the third terminal.
"Apart from that, once a PPP project is contracted, there is little scope for changing the design."
He opined that the civil aviation authorities should be proactive in ensuring the compatibility of the project with the third terminal.
Shamsul Haque, an expert on the transport sector and professor of civil engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said if the flyover was opened up in the middle of the road, questions would arise as to where the vehicles would go after descending there.
However, considering the PPP project, the decision had to be taken by the investors, he added.
He further added that financing institutions might not agree to the opening of half the road. "This is because even if such a road is opened, workers will have to be hired for toll collection and maintenance. The number of vehicles will be less, though."
An initiative should have been taken at the outset to link the expressway with the Mayor Hanif Flyover, he observed.