Financial crunch: Expressway expansion hits snags

No allocation from CDA and federal government for the project.


Danish Hussain July 12, 2014

ISLAMABAD:


The Islamabad Expressway expansion may be delayed because of shortage of fund as neither the Capital Development Authority (CDA) nor the federal government has made any allocation for it in the current budget.


The Rs17.5 billion expansion project involves construction of a 24-kilometre-long signal-free corridor from Zero Point to Rawat and if executed, it will take only 15 minutes to cover distance between the two points.

The CDA is looking towards the federal government to fund the project under the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), as the civic agency has been facing financial crunch to initiate work on it, a CDA official told The Express Tribune.

“The CDA lacks the requisite funds to carry out work on the project and we are looking towards the federal government to finance it,” CDA Member Engineering Shahid Sohail said.

He, however, dispelled the impression that the project would face delay because of the funding issue.

“Currently, the CDA is shaping up the project and it is likely to be finalised by the end of the first quarter of current financial year,” Sohail said.

Earlier, the federal government had consented to provide up to 50 per cent for the project, but the fragile financial position of the CDA does not allow it to arrange Rs8.5 billion funds which may cause delay.

Meanwhile, the civic agency was also contemplating the option of constructing the road on a build-operate-and-transfer (BOT) basis, a senior official said adding that the option was yet to be shared with the federal government.

“A tax of Rs30 will be levied on light vehicles and Rs50 on heavy vehicles plying the highway and the contractor who will bear the cost of the project will be given the contract,” he said.

Petrol pumps, wedding halls and housing societies, which were operating on both sides of the highway, would be charged fee for using the CDA land.

The official said that drivers who did not want to pay the toll could use service roads instead of the highway.

The CDA recently floated an advertisement to pre-qualify consultant firms for design, construction and supervision of the project, but the prequalification was yet to be announced.

“The Rs17.5 billion cost is tentative and based on estimations. It can go up or down after completion of the engineering design,” said an official of authority’s finance wing.

The official rejected the notion that highrise buildings on both sides of the highway would be erected.

But, a senior officer of the Cabinet Division, who attended a meeting regarding the project at the Prime Minister’s office a few days ago, confirmed that the road would be developed on the patron of Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road, which has highrise buildings on both sides.

The project involves construction of two overhead passages one each in front of the Koral Chowk and the Defence Housing Authority with seven underpasses mostly in front of housing societies located along the highway.

The highway would have 10 lanes -- five lanes on each side -- with three flexible and two rigid pavements.

The portion of the Islamabad Expressway between Zero Point and Koral Chowk is already consisted of 10 lanes.

If executed, the project would boost real estate business in Zone-V of Islamabad, as dozens of private housing societies fall along the highway.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 12th, 2014.

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