Plans for the construction of underpasses across the Ring Road in northern Lahore have been shelved for now because of a shortage of funds, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The 9-kilometre Package 3 of the Ring Road’s Northern Loop intersects three major roads and the government had planned to build underpasses at each intersection. One underpass at Shadbagh has been built; the other two were planned on the road going from Bhogewal to Karol Ghati, and on Bheni Road at Mehmood Booti.
A Lahore Ring Road Authority (LRRA) official said that construction had been put on hold subject to the availability of the required funding.
The government is currently engaged with the construction of the Metro Bus Service and the expansion of Multan Road, two major projects worth billions of rupees. Plans to expand Ravi Bridge were also shelved earlier due to a lack of funds. And the government recently invited private companies to build the Southern Loop of the Ring Road as part of a public-private partnership because it does not have the funds to build the 48-km road on its own.
LRRA Deputy Director Najam Waheed said that if a road is intersected by a highway or motorway, the government should provide road users an alternative in the form of a flyover or underpass. Presently, he said, additional turns had been created on Package 3 to accommodate local residents who need to cross the road. “These u-turns are problematic as they slow traffic on the Ring Road,” he said. They were not particularly convenient for vehicles travelling locally either, he said, as they still needed to make a detour of several kilometres.
LRRA Chief Engineer Javed Ilyas said that the underpasses had been put on hold owing to the non-availability of funds. He said the project would be started “as soon as the government has some funds”.
The underpass at Shadbagh was built in 2009 and quickly came under criticism because, at 3.6 metres, it is not high enough for heavy traffic. The northern parts of Lahore are home to several small industries and warehouses and a National Engineering Services of Pakistan study showed that the three roads bisected by the Ring Road are commonly used by heavy traffic.
Keeping the criticism in view, Project Management Unit officials proposed to the Planning and Development Department that the next two underpasses be 5.1 metres tall so they can accommodate large vehicles, said an official familiar with the project. However, the department turned down the proposal because at Rs1.35 billion, the project was too expensive. “We were advised to revise the project to lower cost,” he said,
The official said that a second proposal was sent to the Planning and Development Department for two flyovers costing Rs1.21 billion. This proposal was also turned down for being too expensive.
Finally, it was proposed that two 3.6-metre underpasses be built at the intersections at a cost of Rs1.04 billion. The project was approved last month and forwarded to the Chief Minister’s Secretariat. There, it was put on hold due to a lack of funds, said the official.
Khalid Javed of the Planning and Development Department section concerned said that the NESPAK study of the roads did show that they were used by heavy traffic, but the numbers were not so high as to merit building the more expensive underpasses.
He said that the shorter underpasses would still provide relief to locals and allow the closing of the additional u-turns on the Ring Road. He said that it wasn’t unreasonable to expect trucks to add a few extra kilometres to their journeys via the Ring Road. He said he was unaware of any postponement of the project.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2012.
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