The Dhaka-Sylhet highway widening work is finally going to see the light of the day after more than five years, as the first tender of the nearly 210 kilometre road has recently been opened.
On April 29, Roads and Highways Department (RHD) invited the tender for widening the 35km stretch of the highway from Dhaka to Narsingdi, officials said.
RHD has the target to complete the selection procedure in the next six months, they further said.
The whole highway is divided into six packages. Dhaka-Narsingdi stretch is the first of the six packages.
The officials said the project office had set the target to complete tenders of all six packages by this year, aiming at starting field level work by January-February next year.
"It usually takes six months to complete the procurement process of an international tender. So the plan has been taken accordingly," said project director Mohammad Fazlul Karim.
He said the project had been approved by the ECNEC (Executive Committee of the National Economic Council).
As its funding problem is over, he said, the RHD started the procedure of appointing contractors for the country's important highway after the Dhaka-Chattogram highway.
The fact-finding mission of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has assured of funding Tk 132.44 billion out of Tk 169 billion, since the road is the part of sub regional corridor of Asian Highway, said the project director.
The ADB is likely to approve the fund in June.
The Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project, taken after completing feasibility study and detailed design in 2015, has been delayed due to fund crisis and uncertainty over the mode of financing for the project.
Initially, the ADB showed interest in the project as the feasibility study and detailed design work of a total of 270 km road from Dhaka to Tamabil through Sylhet were completed under its technical assistant project.
But the government spent more than a year to settle with a Chinese company, which proposed to construct the highway under the government-to-government arrangement at a high rate.
Later, time was also lost deciding on funding as the government wanted to construct it with its own fund.
Meanwhile, the project cost went up beyond the Chinese proposed rate mainly because of the change in the design work, RHD officials said.
They said the service roads for slow moving vehicles had been widened providing scope for two-way vehicle movement on both sides of the existing two-lane highway.
The road design is changed from 12 feet to 18 feet all along the highway.
Sources said the feasibility study done under the technical project was reviewed and many components including overpasses and bridges were dropped from the planning.
Connectivity on both sides of the highway has been limited as the underpass construction plan was withdrawn keeping scope for vehicles to cross the highway through the signal system.
However, the officials said, construction of frequent footbridges over the highway had been proposed to allow people to connect with the locality.
According to the project office, the cost estimation was done following the current rate of schedule and volume of work.
The project office also invited the Expression of Interest to appoint project implementation consultants to supervise the development work of all six packages.
Five packages will have two contracts each, while one package will have three contracts.
Work to construct Dhaka-Narsingdi (35km) will be carried under package 1, while Narsingdi-Bhairab (33km) under package 2.
After Bhairab, Ashuganj-Sarail part will be constructed under another project funded by Indian Line of Credit.
Construction work from Sarail to Budondipur (35km) will be carried under package 3, Budondipur to Bahubal (28km) under package 4, Bahubal to Sherpur Bridge (35km) under package 5, and Sherpur to Peer Habibur Rahman Chattor (36km) under package 6.
The ECNEC approved the project on February 16.