The long wait for Bangladesh's first elevated road is finally becoming a reality on Saturday (02 September) in Dhaka with the inauguration of the first segment of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway after around 14 years of the project's approval.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is slated to inaugurate the 22.5km stretch of the vital infrastructure, running from the airport to Farmgate, and then attend a public rally at the old trade fair ground of Sher-e-Bangla Nagar scheduled for 4pm.
However, the expressway will be open to the public from 6am on Sunday (3 September).
A commute on this portion of the expressway from the airport to Farmgate is going to be approximately 10 minutes, according to officials.
Before addressing the public rally, the premier will be on a drive on the elevated expressway from Kawla area opposite Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and unveil a plaque following payment of toll at the airport toll plaza. She will have a short briefing at the toll plaza, and will travel up to Farmgate through the elevated expressway.
All ready for inauguration
Md Monjur Hossain, secretary of the Bridges Division, confirmed that all necessary preparations have been diligently completed to ensure the successful inauguration of the first phase of the Elevated Expressway.
He told The Business Standard that the final touches, including road marking and the installation of road signage, have been done. Additionally, the toll plaza and road lights along the expressway have been properly set up. The expressway's cleanliness and beautification were also finished by Friday morning.
In 2011, the government entered into a partnership agreement with a private entity to develop a 46.73km elevated expressway, including a 19.73km main route and 27km of ramps and connecting links.
Airport to Kutubkhali in 20 minutes
This significant infrastructure project promises to offer a notably faster and more efficient toll road connecting the northern and southern regions of the capital city. Vehicles travelling from the airport to Kutubkhali, near the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, can now complete the journey in just 20 minutes, claims officials.
The full-scale operation of the entire elevated expressway is slated for June next.
AL arranges massive gathering
The ruling Bangladesh Awami League aims to transform the inaugural ceremony into a massive public gathering in anticipation of the upcoming national election.
Mirza Azam, the Awami League's organisational secretary in charge of Dhaka division, has predicted that more than 5 lakh people will attend the rally.
He told TBS that the gathering will convey the message that the Awami League government is strong with the participation, support, and power of the people and that the people are with this government.
Bridges Division Secretary Monjur Hossain also stated that ministers, high-ranking government officials, foreign embassy representatives, and development partners have been invited to join the inauguration ceremony. The Bangladesh Bridge Authority has completed preparations to host approximately 5,000 invitees.
Sources within the bridge authority have revealed that apart from the prime minister, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, Secretary of the Bridge Division Monjur Hossain, and a representative of the investor will speak at the event chaired by Road Transport and Bridge Minister Obaidul Quader.
Total estimated cost Tk8,940cr
The government initiated the Dhaka Elevated Expressway under the public private partnership arrangement in 2011. The Bridges Division signed a deal with the First Dhaka Elevated Expressway Company Limited led by Italian-Thai Development Public Company Ltd. Earlier, the prime minister laid the foundation stone of the project.
Total cost of the project is estimated at Tk8,940 crore, while the government is providing Tk2,413 crore as Viability Gap Financing. The bridge authority is implementing another project involving Tk4,918 crore to support the PPP project.
The private partner is investing Tk6,527 crore, while the government is providing Tk7,331 crore.
The China Exim Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China are providing $861 million as a loan to the investors.
Govt will takeover in 2045
The official commencement of the project started on 1 January 2020 under a 25-year agreement. The investors will collect tolls up to 31 December 2044 and it will be handed over to the government on the first day of 2045.
Transport experts anticipate that the partial opening could lead to increased congestion in areas of the city where exit ramps are situated.
Dr Md Hadiuzzaman, a professor of Civil Engineering at Buet, explained that elevated roads are designed to offer an alternative for long-distance transportation, alleviating traffic congestion within the city. However, if such structures are not seamlessly integrated into the city's infrastructure, they may inadvertently increase traffic congestion in the areas below.
Monjur Hossain, however, dismissed concerns regarding additional traffic pressure in the city.
He emphasised that the inauguration will provide a 22.5km four-lane carriageway within the city.
"If 15% of vehicles in the alignment use the elevated expressway, the pressure on the lower carriageway will decrease proportionally," he noted, adding that the journey time from Airport to Farmgate would be reduced to approximately 10 minutes.
The full inauguration of the project, extending from the Airport to Kutubkhali near Dhaka-Chattogram highway, will offer uninterrupted travel for vehicles from the Northern to the Southern areas of the capital.
Monjur Hossain and Hadiuzzaman both anticipate a significant reduction in traffic jams within the capital following the complete inauguration.