The government is going to build an elevated expressway to help passenger buses and goods-carrying vehicles coming from northern districts take a direct route to Dhaka-Chattogram highway, avoiding traffic congestion in Dhaka.
To this end, the government on Wednesday approved a proposal in principle to implement the Dhaka East West Elevated Expressway project on the Public Private Partnership (PPP) basis.
Both northern and southern districts will be able to use Padma Bridge as the 62-kilometre expressway with ramps stretching nearly 23km will be connected to Dhaka-Mawa highway.
Several South Korean companies have expressed interest in investing $2.05 billion in the project. The decision will be finalised at the 4th meeting of Bangladesh-Korea Joint PPP Platform to ensure investment in the G2G partnership on the basis of PPP.
The Public Private Partnership Authority Bangladesh said they will hold the meeting with Korea Infrastructure and Urban Development Corporation on 21 December.
According to sources at the bridges division, the government in its seventh Five-Year Plan proposed constructing the Dhaka East West Elevated Expressway to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka and adjacent areas.
In the preliminary feasibility study report finalised in 2016, the project cost was estimated at Tk16,389 crore.
A Malaysian company agreed to finance the project after the division prepared a preliminary development project proposal. Later, the Chinese government also expressed interest in investing in the project. But, the government has decided to implement the project on the PPP basis as no funding came from either of the two sides.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in its 34th meeting yesterday (Wednesday) gave approval to implement the expressway project on the PPP basis.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Cabinet Division Additional Secretary Md Shamsul Arefin said, "Many companies are now showing their keenness to be associated with this project. Once the tender is floated, responsive bidders will be selected through competition."
The route of the proposed expressway is Hemayetpur-Nimtoli-Keraniganj-Ekuria-Janzira-Fatullah-Hajiganj Bandar-Modonpur on Dhaka-Chattogram highway. The interchanges of the expressway are proposed at Hemayetpur, Dhaka-Mawa Highway, Narayanganj and Dhaka-Chattogram highway.
On completion of the project, traffic movement from eastern and south-western regions to the 20 north-western districts will be easier without entering Dhaka city. More than 38,000 vehicles would use the expressway on average per day.
Taking account of the time and fuel savings and considering bridge tolls as benchmark, truck drivers stated that they would pay a toll of up to Tk500 for a route to cross Dhaka city without delays, said officials of the bridges division, referring to the feasibility study.
The fuel savings will be substantial if bus drivers use the expressway and using the toll fare of bridges as a standard, they are willing to pay Tk200 to Tk250 per bus to use the proposed expressway, they also said.
The study proposed a toll of Tk9.4 per kilometre for a medium-sized truck and the total toll will be Tk366 for the entire expressway.
Md Abul Bashar, director general of the government's PPP Authority, told The Business Standard the project will be implemented in the most acceptable way of PPP - build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) system. The investors in the project will hand over the expressway to the government after collecting tolls for a certain period.
As the feasibility study has already been completed, too many surveys will not be required to implement the project, he said, adding, "If we work in the G2G partnership, it will take one and a half years to start the project and if we call for a tender, work will start in two and a half years."
If the construction is completed in four years, the investors will be allowed to raise tolls for 21 years, he noted.
Md Abul Hossain, superintending engineer at the Bangladesh Bridge Authority, told TBS that work on the project has been delayed as they waited for Malaysian investment.
Mentioning that the construction of the expressway was supposed to start in 2018 and end in 2024, he said the project cost might go up as a few years have already gone by.
In the "Infra Project Roadshow" organised by Korea Trade Investment Promotion Agency, a number of Korean companies showed interest in investing in the project.
Feasibility study report of the project also revealed that the Dhaka East West Elevated Expressway will allow traffic to travel around the western perimeter of Dhaka between the Dhaka Aricha highway and Dhaka Chattogram highway with connections to Dhaka Mawa highway, which links directly to the Padma Bridge and to Narayanganj.
By making these connections between these major highways, and the north, south and west of the country, the expressway will reduce traffic congestion in the capital.
The expressway is consistent with the strategic road network planning of both the Dhaka Structure Plan and the Asian Highway Network.
The expressway will form an important part of AH1 and thus will be vital for establishing an improved transport link on the Trans-Asian highways. An integral part of the project is its connection to the upgraded Dhaka Mawa Highway and hence the Padma Bridge.
The average speed of motor vehicles in Dhaka has come down to nearly walking speed because of a lower number of roads against rising population in the city, according to separate research conducted by Buet's Accident Research Institute and the World Bank.
The annual losses caused by traffic congestion in Dhaka amount to $3-5 billion according to the two organisations, while the government has estimated the losses at over $7 billion or nearly 2% of GDP.
However, a report presented at an annual development conference recently organised by Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies said traffic congestion in Dhaka indirectly causes a loss of 10% of GDP.