After the Joydebpur-Rangpur, Dhaka-Mawa highway, which includes an accident-prone expressway, is also coming under the intelligent transport system that aims at increasing safety, reducing traffic congestion and managing incidents effectively.
The intelligent traffic system on that 40km stretch has been estimated at Tk115 crore, according to the Roads and Highways Department (RHD), as per kilometre traffic monitoring would cost Tk2.89 crore.
But, an ongoing project that has floated tender for the intelligent traffic system shows that the Roads and Highways Department's proposed cost for the patch is around four times higher than the current market rate.
The RHD has sent the project proposal to the Planning Commission recently.
Officials at the commission said South Korea is providing around Tk76 crore grant for setting up the intelligent transport system from Dhaka's Jatrabari to Padma Bridge at Mawa. The proposal will be discussed at the next meeting of the Project Evaluation Committee on 27 April.
The intelligent transport system is a set of transport infrastructure and operation systems that maximise safety, efficiency and convenience of the road system.
There will be towers with cameras at different points of the road and the towers will be sending traffic information – amount of vehicles on the road, speed, accidents and weather data – to the traffic management centre in Dhaka immediately. The centre will analyse the information and send instructions to road users accordingly.
The system is said to help build an efficient road network free from congestion, frequent accidents and severe pollution.
The country's first intelligent transport system is being set up on the 260km highway from Joydebpur to Rangpur for Tk151 crore. The RHD has already signed an agreement with the lowest bidder after floating the tender.
Planning Commission officials said if the intelligent traffic system on Jatrabari-Mawa highway gets more allocation, the Chinese contractor who is now setting up the intelligent traffic system on Joydebpur-Rangpur road may seek a cost escalation in future.
Roads and Highways Department officials said Korean contractors will set up the monitoring system with the Korean fund. Besides, the project will be using Korean machinery.
But defending the higher allocation, the department's Additional Chief Engineer Md Abdullah Al Mamun and supervisor of the Jatrabari-Mawa work said installation of the intelligent traffic system on Rangpur-Joydebpur and Jatrabari-Mawa are not the same.
He, however, did not specify the difference.
Meanwhile, the Jatrabari-Mawa intelligent traffic system project officials also said the proposed project is a pilot. Based on its output, similar monitoring systems will be set up on other national highways in future. Therefore, the cost is relatively high.
Md Mamun-Al-Rashid, member of the Physical Infrastructure Division of the Planning Commission, said, "Whether it is grant or loan, project spending must not be arbitrary.
"There are several questions about the cost of various parts of the proposed intelligent traffic system on Jatrabari-Mawa highway. The project cannot be commissioned until the questions are not answered properly."
Mamun said the project has proposed Tk14 crore for consulting. The commission has asked the Roads and Highways Department for the grounds.
Where will the monitoring centre be?
Roads and Highways Department officials said the system will have a vehicle detection system to flag over-speeding. This will reduce accidents.
Variable messaging signs will also be placed on the tower to show advance warning to incoming vehicles in case of any issues such as a storm, or an accident up ahead.
There will be monitoring buildings every few kilometres. In case of any road accident, necessary measures will be taken from the facilities immediately.
But, the two projects are yet to fix where the central monitoring hub will be – next to the Sarak Bhaban in Tejgaon or at the Bangladesh Road Research Laboratory in Mirpur.
Md Waliur Rahman, director of Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project, said the traffic monitoring on Joydebpur-Rangpur highway was taken up in 2016, and the Roads and Highways Department then decided to set up the central hub in Mirpur.
He said the Jatrabari-Mawa project proposed the central hub be built in Tejgaon. The matter will be resolved after consulting with the concerned authorities.