Saturday, 23 September, 2023

Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway

Dhaka’s traffic landscape to be reshaped

Dhaka’s traffic landscape to be reshaped
Work on the Dhaka-Ashulia Expressway is progressing fast. The photo was taken from Ashulia on the outskirts of the capital on Friday. – Kamrul Islam Ratan

The under-construction Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway is set to transform Dhaka's notorious traffic congestion, providing uninterrupted overhead road connectivity as a sequel to the Dhaka Elevated Expressway.

The new 24-kilometre elevated roadway, in tandem with the almost complete Dhaka Elevated Expressway, will provide a combined 43.73-kilometre elevated route from the Savar EPZ area to the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway.

This development aims to significantly improve the commuting experience for residents of the bustling city.

This latest expressway will connect to the Dhaka Elevated Expressway at Kutubkhali, after originating in Savar, EPZ, and traversing through Ashulia, Baipail, and Abdullahpur.

On 2 September, the 11.5-kilometre Airport-Farmgate section of the 19.73-kilometre Dhaka Elevated Expressway was inaugurated, cutting travel time on that stretch to a mere 10 minutes, down from over an hour. The entire project is slated for completion in June 2024.

However, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) emphasises that the full benefits of the Dhaka Elevated Expressway will be truly realised only upon the completion of the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway, which will establish a direct link from Savar EPZ to the Chittagong Road.

"Though the Dhaka Elevated Expressway will contribute to mitigating the city’s chronic traffic congestion by providing additional road space, its complete efficacy will hinge on the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway, ensuring seamless north-south road connectivity," said Bridges Division Secretary Md Monjur Hossain told the Daily Sun.

The complete north-south elevated road system will not just alleviate traffic jams and reduce travel costs and time, but it will also enable trucks and covered vans to operate in the capital during daytime—currently a restricted activity.

The implementing agency, Bangladesh Bridge Authority, estimates that the second elevated expressway will contribute 0.218 percent to the national GDP and directly benefit 40 million residents across 30 districts. The expressway is also expected to stimulate the economy, enhance export earnings, and create new jobs, particularly in the Savar EPZ region.

Moreover, the expressway is projected to mitigate traffic congestion in Savar, Ashulia, Nabinagar, and EPZ locales, thereby paving the way for new investment opportunities due to improved road links, according to project authorities.

Residents from nearly 20 north-western and five to six south-western districts will find easier access to Dhaka via the elevated expressway through Nabinagar, Ashulia, and Baipail.

The 24-kilometre Dhaka-Ashulia Expressway will feature ramps at multiple points along its length, adding an extra 10.5 kilometres to facilitate greater mobility. The project will also include the construction of two 3-kilometre two-lane bridges in low-lying regions and a 4-kilometre four-lane road from Abdullahpur to Baipail complete with drainage and footpath facilities, project director Md Shahabuddin Khan said.

The pace of the project has recently accelerated after overcoming various obstacles, including delays in securing financing from the Chinese government, the project's primary backer.

"We faced delays due to utility shifting and land acquisition issues, but the major setback was the lag in finalising the financial agreement. It's advancing swiftly now as these primary hurdles have been overcome," said Shahabuddin.

Initially approved in 2017 with a 2022 completion deadline, the loan agreement was finally signed in August 2021, becoming effective in May 2022. Subsequently, the project commenced in November of the same year.

In the 10 months since, 9 percent of the main project work has been completed, with 1,000 out of 5,000 pier pilings now in place, according to Shahabuddin.

The cost of the project has escalated from an initial Tk 169.01 billion to Tk 171.64 billion. The Chinese government has committed Tk 96.69 billion, with the remainder to be covered by state funding.

Given the current rate of progress, the project is expected to meet its revised completion deadline of June 2026.

"We are optimistic about meeting the new deadline as we've navigated past the main bottlenecks, including issues with the Bangladesh Railway. We have no intention of delaying the project any further," concluded Shahabuddin.