The World Bank (WB) has agreed to finance the country's western economic corroder with a view to facilitating a smart connectivity there, an official said on Friday.
The Washington-based lender would provide US$500 million in loans for constructing a part of the 260-kilometre economic corridor in western Bangladesh.
The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) would transform the 48.5 kilometre Jessore-Jhenidah part into the four-lane highway, incorporating two other slow-moving vehicle lanes on both sides.
Under the Western Economic Corridor and Regional Enhancement (WeCARE) project, the state-run road developer has planned to reconstruct the Bhomra-Satkhira-Navaron-Jessore-Jhenidah-Bonpara-Hatikamrul highways making it a four-lane road network from the two-lane passage.
"We have split the 260km road into four packages, including the 58km long Bhomra-Satkhira-Navaran part, 48.5km Jessore-Jhenidah part, 66km Jhenidah-Kushtia part, and 87.5km Kushtia-Bonpara-Hatikamrul part, the official said.
The WB has already assured the government of providing necessary financial support for the first two parts while the Beijing-based Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will fund the remaining two parts of the western economic corridor.
An RHD official said the WB first would finance the 48.5km Jessore-Jhenidah road-widening project.
Besides, the global lender would finance some village roads, which are connected with the western economic corridor, he added.
"We would widen the existing corridor to six-lane, including two dedicated to slow-moving vehicles on both the roadsides," the RHD official said.
In addition, the government will convert the highways into a smart road installing optical fibre cable and intelligent traffic system, he said.
When asked, an Economic Relations Division (ERD) official said the negotiations with the WB for the $500 million loan had already been completed.
A loan deal is expected to be sign soon, he added.
Another RHD official said they had already sent the project proposal to the Planning Commission in order to widen the Jessore-Jhenidah part to a four-lane highway with slow-moving vehicle lanes on both sides.
"We have sent a Tk 41.88 billion project proposal for completing the road upgrade work by December 2025," he added.
The RHD official said soon after getting approval from the commission of the road project, they would start reconstruction of the highways.
The western economic corridor would connect the Benapole and Bhomra land ports and the Mongla seaport, the Asian Highways, the SAARC Highway corridor, BIMSTEC road corridor and South Asian Economic Road Corridor (SASEC) road corridor.
"Since the Mongla port would be used by Nepal and Bhutan, the western economic route would play a vital role in trade and business promotions in this region," the RHD official said.