The construction work on the 190-kilometer Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur highway is going on in full swing amid the coronavirus crisis.
After the implementation of the of work, the six-lane highway will open up new horizons for the people living in the northern regions as they will be able to reach the capital Dhaka and other places in much shorter time.
A local construction company, Mir Akter Hossain Limited and Chinese firm Hego, are jointly implementing the work to upgrade the 190 kilometers of the Elenga–Hatikumrul–Rangpur section of the Dhaka-Northwest Corridor, under the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program, with financing from the Asian Development Bank at a cost of Tk around 12,000 crore.
The new road connectivity will substantially improve subregional road communications, improve road safety, and increase passenger and cargo-carrying capacity.
Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur is an important part of the SASEC corridor, Asian Highway, BIMSTEC Corridor, and the SAARC Highway.
The Bangladesh-China joint venture are now also constructing seven bridges, 17 culverts, one flyover, five underpasses, 12 bus bays, one pedestrian overpass, and six intersections under the project.
Bangladesh is also upgrading the Joydevpur-Chandra-Tangail-Elenga highway under the SASEC Road Connectivity Project.
If the six-lane road is constructed from Elenga to Rangpur, it will take only three and a half hours to reach Dhaka from Bogra and five hours from Rangpur.
Meanwhile, a six-lane highway has been constructed from Gazipur in Dhaka to Elenga under the SASEC-1 project. There is, however, some more work left to be done. Besides, the bridges that in the North Bengal Highway of SASEK-2 project are also being constructed to suit six lanes. The bridges are being constructed by Western Bangladesh Bridge Improvement Project (WBBIP).
According to a senior official of SASEC project, after completion of work from Elenga to Rangpur highway by 2022, construction of 124 km from Rangpur to Burimari of Lalmonirhat under SASEC-3 project and 195 km six lane road from Rangpur to Banglabandha of Panchagarhdistrict under SASEC-4 project will take off.
It is hoped that these two projects will be completed by 2023. The construction of this road will create a new connection of four-way direct road communication between Dhaka-North Bengal to India, Nepal and Bhutan.
The main goal of the SASEC Highway projectsare to take economic activities forward by uniting Bangladesh with South Asian countries. The SASEC Upgradation Project is being implemented with Asian Development Bank (ADB) Multitranche Financing Facility (MFF) level funding.
A senior project official seeking anonymity told this correspondent that the international-standard constructed road is wide (150 to 160 feet) so that vehicles can move fast in each lane with easiness. Passengers will be able to reach the destination in a short time. As there are no markets and public gatherings along the highways, the accident rates are expected to remain low.
Some designs have been modernized on this road to implement the international standard. For example, after crossing the Bangabandhu Bridge at the western end, the interchange of Hatikumrul in Sirajganj (connection of the separate roads to Rajshahi and Rangpur) is being constructed in such a way that there is no traffic jam. All vehicles can reach the destination route without any hindrance.
The long highway plan initially had three flyovers at Elenga Bazar, Kaddar crossroads in Sirajganj and Gobindganj in Gaibandha to ease traffic congestion. As the economic zone has been constructed on the bypass of Sirajganj, a flyover has to be constructed there as well. Besides, two railway overpasses will be constructed at Jhaol and Bogra in Sirajganj.
According to sources, the distance of SASEC project from Dhaka to Bogra is 190 kilometers and the distance from Dhaka to Rangpur is 307 kilometers. The highway is being built to international standards so that it serves its purpose at least next 50 years. In the present design, two railway overpasses, 32 bridges, 11 pedestrian overpasses, one interchange and four flyovers will be constructed on the North Bengal Highway.
Sources said that the feasibility study and project design of the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur Highway Upgradation Project was done by the World Bank (WB) funded consultants. Then the government approved the project in 2016 and it was scheduled to be completed by 2021.
Meanwhile the project's revised plan suggests time extension by another 4.5 years. It means people of the 18 northwest districts would have to wait up to 2024 to get the upgraded highway for use.
Waliur Rahman, Project Director of the highway project said, "I don't know what happened before. I took over last May. There were also some complications with land acquisition to delay the progress.”