A consortium of Chinese and Bangladeshi engineering firms will construct the country's largest steel arch bridge, the Kewatkhali Bridge, in Mymensingh.
An agreement with the consortium, led by China State Construction Engineering Corporation with Spectra Engineers, Bangladesh, is to be signed next month, Project Director Noor E-Alam told The Business Standard.
The cabinet purchase body has already approved the proposal relating to the physical works, which will commence in October following the mobilisation of resources by the contractor, he added.
A deal worth Tk2,138 crore has been finalised for the construction package of the bridge, modelled after the Sydney Harbour Bridge.
The executive committee of the national economic council (Ecnec) approved the project at an estimated cost of Tk3,263.63 crore in August 2021.
The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will provide loans worth Tk1,909.80 crore and the government will provide the remaining amount from its own fund.
The main component of the project includes the construction of a 1.1km bridge, including a 320m steel arch bridge over the Brahmaputra River at Kewatkhali in Mymensingh.
The project also includes a 6.2km four-lane approach road with two separate lanes for slow-moving vehicles, three road overpasses with a combined length of 671m, two rail overpasses with a length of 120m each, a toll plaza, and a rest area adjacent to the bridge.
No piers will be used in the entire 320m steel arch main bridge. Only two piers will be set up near the banks of the river at both ends.
Officials of the Planning Commission said at least five to six piers would have been required if the bridge was built with existing methods. Doing so would have blocked the flow of the river.
Sources said this type of steel arch bridge has been installed on a small scale in various projects of the country, including the Hatirjheel project.
The project director told TBS that the CCGP earlier approved a proposal worth around Tk60 crore to recruit supervising consultants for the project.
He said the Joint Venture of LEA Associates South Asia Pvt Ltd, India, and Yongma Engineering Co Ltd, Korea, with subcontractors DeshUpodesh Ltd and Kranti Associates Ltd, Bangladesh, have started the works for reviewing design and supervising construction.
Why the need
The number of passengers from the local districts and upazilas towards Mymensingh has increased, causing traffic congestion in the city along with the bridge after the establishment of Mymensingh division in 2015 and City Corporation in 2018.
People from Mymensingh, Netrokona, Sherpur, Jamalpur and Kishoreganj districts travel to Dhaka using this route.
Officials of the Roads and Highways Department said the capacity of a two-lane bridge built in 1991 at Shambhuganj over Brahmaputra is significantly inadequate in meeting the growing traffic demand.
Therefore, the bridge is expected to ease the lives and livelihood of people in Mymensingh division and its adjacent areas by expanding the Mymensingh City Corporation, reducing traffic congestion as well as boosting regional trade and connectivity, they said.
"The Kewatkhali Bridge will be part of the Dhaka-Mymensingh-India border corridor, which is strategically important for both regional and local connectivity," the AIIB revealed in a report prepared to approve the loan proposal.
The bridge will facilitate the flow of traded goods to and from three land ports located along the northeast Indian border in Mymensingh Division, namely Nakugaon Land Port in Sherpur district, Gobrakura Land Port and Haluaghat Land Port in Mymensingh district, the report explained.
Mitigating other issues
Project Director Noor E-Alam said once the agreement is signed with the contractor, there will be no obstacle to starting the main work.
However, sources at the Road Transport and Highways Department said that due to some complications, initiatives are being taken to revise the project before the commencement of work.
For this purpose, the project authority will organise a meeting of the Departmental Project Evaluation Committee (DPEC) at the end of this month.
According to sources, under the project, money has been allocated for the salaries of officials, but there is no allocation for employees.
As a result, the salaries of two 14th-grade surveyors engaged in the project are not being paid.
Apart from this, the detailed cost estimate for land acquisition of the project is not yet available. And shifting utilities is spending more than the money allotted to the project.
According to sources, the meeting held under the chairmanship of Road Transport and Highways Department Secretary ABM Amin Ullah Noori will focus on the means of arriving at a solution to all these problems.