The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project from the airport to Gazipur has to be revised for the third time as new complexities have arisen in its design and specification. The technical design of the Tongi-Joydebpur road also needs to be changed which would increase the project cost by Tk165 crore.
The authorities have decided to use I-girder instead of box girder in the 4.5km elevated section from Uttara House Building to Tongi Cherag Ali Market. There has been a debate on the use of girders since the project began in 2012.
A box girder is an enclosed tube with multiple walls to support a bridge structure, while I- or H-beam is cross-section structure. A box girder uses more materials and takes more space than an I-girder, but bears more load than an I-beam of equal height.
The contractor of the project insisted on using I-girder on the grounds that box girders would not leave enough space for more than two lanes in the elevated section. But the Bangladesh Bridge Authority did not agree with their proposal.
But later, the bridge authority accepted the plan to use I-girder which will reduce the project cost by Tk41 crore.
The decisions were made at the 5th meeting of the steering committee of the Greater Dhaka Sustainable Urban Transport Project (BRT, Airport-Gazipur) held recently. The meeting also decided to cancel the tender invitation for the construction of an underpass at airport point as they could not get clearance for using the land.
The initial BRT project cost was Tk2,040 crore. A revision in 2015 did not increase the cost. In 2016, however, the project was revised for the second time and the cost was almost doubled to Tk4,268 crore.
The committee also approved the proposal of using new material for the road from Tongi to Joydebpur, which has been severely damaged because of inadequate drainage system and excessive traffic.
The project was expected to be completed in November 2016. The term was extended several times, finally targeting June 2020. But with about two-thirds of the project remaining unfinished, the deadline has been recently extended by two more years to June 2022.
However, experts doubt the project can be finished by then.
Only 35% completed in 8 years
Work on the 20.5km BRT Gazipur-Airport project began in 2012 to reduce traffic congestion at the entrance to the capital. After eight years, only 35.45% of the project has been implemented.
When completed, it will take only 20 minutes to reach the airport from Gazipur, which means the road will be used by 20,000 commuters every hour.
The Bangladesh Bridge Authority, the Roads and Highways Department and the Local Government Engineering Department are jointly implementing the project.
Project Director Md Mohirul Islam said the construction work of 36km connecting road and the BRT bus depot at Naljani of Gazipur has been completed.
The Bridge Authority is constructing the 4.5km elevated road (flyover) from Uttara House Building to Tongi Cherag Ali Market and the 10-lane Tongi Bridge over the River Turag.
The elevated road will have six lanes on 3.5km and two lanes on the remaining 1km. The Bridge Authority will also build six stations on the flyover.
According to sources at the Bangladesh Bridge Authority, around 37% of the construction of the elevated road is completed while the construction of six lanes is targeted for April 2022. Meanwhile, the work on five lanes of the 10-lane bridge over the Turag will be completed by August next year and it will be opened for traffic.
The Roads and Highways Department will construct eight flyovers and 16.5km of roads. So far, 46% of the work has been completed. Although the construction of the roadside drainage from Tongi to Chandra intersection has been completed, the construction of about 1km drainage from Chandra to Shivbari in Joydebpur is still pending.
Use of I-girder finalised
A meeting of the Project Evaluation Committee on 17 June 2019 decided that using I-girders instead of box girders in the Bridge Authority's elevated spans would not be appropriate. It recommended using box girders for the construction as planned in the original design.
In the face of objections from the Chinese contractors concerned, the Bridge Authority later changed its decision and approved the use of I-girders.
Asked why the use of I-girder was proposed in the steering committee meeting, the project director said, "We could not properly assess the matter at that time."
He said, "Chinese contractor Jiangsu Provisional Engineering Group Company Ltd had stated from the very beginning that it was not possible to use box girders to keep traffic movements smooth due to the narrow road width."
The Bridge Authority also took advice from the experts team of Karnaphuli Tunnel in Chattogram and the Elevated Expressway. Many letters were exchanged between the contractor and the Bridge Authority.
The Chinese contractors continued building the drainage system, I-girders, piling, piers and pier caps without box girders. In the meantime, the contract expired with only 35% of the work completed.
In September 2020, the contractor reiterated in a letter that it was appropriate to use I-girders to keep traffic in the elevated area uninterrupted. They said using box girders would be risky.
The letter said in places where box girders are to be constructed, the width of the road is 34-35 metres. If two box girders are installed, it will take up 24.3 metres of space. As a result, it would not be possible to construct the road with more than one lane, which will disrupt traffic.
In its proposal, the contractor said using I-girders instead of box girders will even reduce the cost by Tk41 crore. The work can be completed within two years, no alternative roads will be required and the elevated part can be introduced at the same time as the part under the Roads and Highways Department.
Roads and Highways Secretary Nazrul Islam said, "In the steering committee meeting, the secretary to the Bridge Authority said the recommendation came in favour of I-girder in the meeting of his department. The managing director of BRT also agreed with that."
Dr Shamsul Hoque, professor of civil engineering at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, told The Business Standard, "Bringing major changes to a project shows the incapability of project management. Such changes hamper the implementation of the project and also increase the project cost and time."
No clearance to use land for underpass
The validity of the tender for the construction of the underpass connecting the front of the Hajj Camp, the Airport Railway Station, the BRT station, the Metrorail 1 station and the airport terminals 1 and 2 will expire on December 27. As no clearance has been obtained for the place, the tender has been cancelled.
It was disclosed at the meeting of the steering committee that the underpass would go through 70 metres of the land of the Roads and Highways Department, 100 metres of the railway and 450 metres of the land of the Civil Aviation Authority. Although the alignment of the underpass was fixed after two inter-ministerial meetings and a joint site visit last year, the Ministry of Railways has not yet cleared its construction.
Clearance was obtained from the Civil Aviation Authority, but its land is leased to a private company. Permission of the company to use the land has not been obtained yet.
The length of the underpass will be 620 metres. The length of the travelator is 250 metres, width 6.40 metres and height 4.30 metres. The estimated cost of its construction is Tk420.89 crore.
Project has to be revised again, the cost will increase
Waterlogging due to inadequate drainage system on the road from Tongi to Joydebpur has damaged the pavement of the road. It was also badly damaged due to excessive traffic.
In this situation, the SMEC International, the consultancy firm, took the initiative to revise the design of the road upon request from the Roads and Highways Department. The SMEC recommends the use of layers and special grade bitumen on the road and construction of concrete pavement in the flyover. The Roads and Highways chief engineer approved the recommendations.
According to the steering committee meeting, the construction cost of the road will increase by Tk165 crore because of this new proposal. The meeting approved the proposal and decided to send it to the ministry.