The 90-kilometre Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project is about to see a 40% cost escalation alongside the time extension of around three years in its first revision.
The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has sent the Tk11,899 crore project to the Planning Commission, proposing a Tk4,763 crore hike in cost.
It has also proposed extending the project time to December 2024 although its existing August 2021 deadline is yet to end.
However, project officials hope that the mainwork on the four-lane road will be completed by 2022. Other related work will be finished within the extended tenure.
The revised road project is expected to be placed before the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council on Tuesday for its seal of approval.
Under the revised proposal, per kilometre construction cost of the highway will go up to Tk87.51 crore from Tk62.49 crore, making it one of the most expensive roads in the country.
The highway, being expanded to four lanes under the South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC-2) programme, will improve connectivity between Dhaka and the northern districts and will also facilitate sub-regional links with India, Nepal and Bhutan.
The feasibility study of the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project was conducted under the assistance of sub-regional road transport project preparatory facility in 2014. The study found the annual average daily traffic to be at 28,240. The annual average daily traffic movement will increase to 57,000 in 2025.
RHD officials said a significant hike in cost of land acquisition is the main reason for the project cost escalation. Land acquisition and rehabilitation costs will rise by Tk2,253 crore as the project requires fresh acquisition of 127 hectares.
As per the amended Land Acquisition Act 2017, the cost in acquiring land and establishments for government projects has shot up by two-three times the original costs.
Moreover, land acquisition cost, widening of a separate lane for slow-moving traffic in some places, construction of a flyover in the Sirajganj economic zone and 10 more small bridges will also lead to a big jump in road project costs, said RHD officials.
An increase in construction of the number of underpasses for pedestrians, repairs of dilapidated bridges and enhancement in heights of rail bridges will add to the project costs, they added.
When contacted, Dr Md Shamsul Hoque, a leading transport expert and professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said, "Our road construction cost is much higher than in other countries, mainly because of costly land acquisition, which is up 40-45% of the total project cost."
Besides, another reason for the high road construction cost is spending a lot of money on hiring foreign consultants and experts, he added.
"Countries like India and Sri Lanka use their own experts in road projects. The cost of road construction in these countries is much less than ours," he also said.
In some cases, over estimation too leads to a steep increase in the project cost, he opined.
Asif Uz Zaman, former member at the Planning Commission, said land development cost for road construction in Bangladesh is higher than in its neighboring countries as the former's land is usually marshy. Besides, as the country has so many water bodies, construction of bridges and culverts also adds to the cost.