The government is set to spend nearly Tk 8 billion (800 crore) on repairing the Dhaka-Chattagram four-lane highway only three years after completion of the costly project.
The national highway (N1), completed in July 2016, has already developed innumerable potholes and cracks. Some portion of the road, however, was opened to public in 2013.Faulty construction work and frequent movement of heavy vehicles have been blamed for the sorry state of the highway connecting the capital with the port city.
Ministry of road transport and bridges is going to launch a new project to consolidate its 192.30km Daudkandi-Chattagram segment and go for a performance-based operation for four years.
The project has been placed before the Planning Commission, seeking approval from the Ecnec headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said sources in the commission.
Once the Tk 793 crore project is approved, the highway will see performance-based maintenance for next four years and the pavement will be strengthened to ensure its full utility and durability, claims ministry of road transport and bridges.
Within seven months of the project completion, the Road Transport and Highways Department (RTHD) made the proposal for the repair which has been waiting for approval.
In 2005, the government approved a project to upgrade the 192km road from Daudkandi in Cumilla to Chattagram, to a four-lane highway by 2010 at an estimated cost of Tk 1,699 crore.Later, the project saw amendment for as many as seven times and took 6.5 years more for completion while the project cost raises more than double to Tk3,439 crore.
Bituminous carpet started to wear off and potholes developed in many places shortly after the PM opened it to the transports in July 2016.
The planning ministry and the highways authorities have blamed faulty construction and an excessive movement of heavy vehicles for the early damage of the road.
In its assessment, Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the Ministry of Planning found that both sides of the highway got tapped and carpeting was damaged within only two years.
Besides, the load limit for vehicles was illogically doubled, it said. It observed that the project designing was faulty as well.
The road has reduced Dhaka-Chattagram travel time by 3 to 4 hours. But number of road accidents has increased on the highway, as it has no separate lane for slow-moving vehicles, zebra crossing or signal, IMED also observed.
The faults in the project proposal made it necessary to repeatedly amend the project, unusually slowing down the project and project cost hike.
In March 2018, road transport and highways division primarily estimated Tk944 crore repair cost for five years.
But the then Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal sent it back for further assessment by an inter-ministerial committee, as the project was not included in the Annual Development Programme of that fiscal year.
After the project proposal reshaping and planning commission’s evaluation, the project cost finally reached Tk 793 crore.
“An improved, safe, sustainable and cost-effective communication between Dhaka and Chattogram will be established once the project is implemented,” a planning commission high-up said.
Economic analysts, however, suggested for bringing responsible person for the low-quality work of a highway seen as the economic lifeline of the country to book.