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DHAKA | Wednesday | 22 June 2011
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Govt plans to build 2nd expresswayMove to ease traffic congestion in industrial belt near capital→ Asif Showkat
 The government has planned to construct the country's second elevated expressway from Dhaka airport to Ashulia and Savar beginning next year to address traffic congestion affecting the economic corridor.

Communications Ministry officials say the proposed 34-kilemtre expressway will be built under a public private partnership initiative.

Development thinkers have appreciated the planned project but insisted that the government must explore foreign investment in implementing such a huge scheme in view of the pressure on foreign exchange.

The planned expressway will connect Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport with industrial hubs of Ashulia, Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ), Chandra in Gazipur and Nabinagar near Savar.

"We have decided to start building the second elevated expressway early 2012 and complete it by December 2014. It will be a public-private partnership project," said a senior official at the ministry.

The proposal from the Bridge Division of the ministry for the second expressway will be placed at the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs next week.

The proposal says the city dwellers will be better connected with 40 million people of 26 districts on completion of this project.

"I think foreign investment will be needed to implement the second Dhaka elevated expressway project under PPP initiative," Zaid Bahkt, Research Director of Bangladesh Institution of Development Studies, told daily sun.

"However, it is essential to construct the second elevated expressway," he said in view of the urgent need for transportation exportable goods to and from Savar in time.

A Bridge Division official said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at a National Economic Council meeting on February 24, asked the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) to take initiative for construction of the Airport-Ashulia-Savar-Chandra elevated expressway.

The industrial belt of Ashulia, Savar, DEPZ and Gazipur is the home to at least 3,000 garment and textile factories.

Former president of Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association Salam Murshidi welcomed the initiative and said the construction of second elevated expressway would help reduce traffic jam in Savar-Ashulia industrial belt.

"Workers, entrepreneurs and officials who are not living there will get relief from traffic congestion everyday, it will save at least three hours," he added.

Last week, she approved a summary of the project to expedite the tender process and encourage investors and contractors to submit their proposals under the PPP financing terms, the official said.

The authorities have invited bids from leading construction firms for short-listing.

Officials said the project cost has been estimated at more than US$1.5 billion, up from the cost of the first expressway, which is 13-km shorter than the proposed one.

Thailand-based Ital-Thai Company has grabbed the project work of the 21-km-long Dhaka Elevated Expressway, the first of its kind in the country. The firm quoted Tk 87.03 billion or US$1.25 billion for the project.

The construction of the first elevated expressway began in April this year and it is expected to be completed by mid-2014. The second expressway will be connected with the first one at Hazrat Shahjalal Airport.

It takes at least four hours for trucks loaded with exportable goods to cross 20-30-km road in the industrial belt due to frequent traffic jam. Narrow roads also slow down the speed of vehicles carrying passengers.

Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association raised the issue with the Prime Minister's office and commerce and communications ministers, demanding construction of alternative roads to speed up export cargoes.

The government has 27 percent stake in the Dhaka expressway.

However, Secretary of Economic Relations Division Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan said the authorities are open to any form of partnership for the second high speed road.

"Any local or international company or joint-ventures could join the bidding for the Airport-Chandra expressway. We want to shortlist the companies within the current month," he said.

According to the proposal, the last date for receiving the proposal on prequalification of investors is July 31, 2011.

The government will in the meantime launch a feasibility study, prepare a detailed route map and carry out technical study of the project as part of the bidding process.

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