The communication sector in terms of physical access to resources and markets drives economic growth and development. Effective transport system has been a fundamental element of sustainable economic development. To attain the developing country status, the present government to work tirelessly and experience benefits for its efforts.
Present government of Bangladesh fulfilled the demand of a long cherished expectation of city dwellers by inaugurating the 11.5 km Airport- Farmgate segment of the Expressway on September 30, 2023, and the rest is still under construction. The Expressway bars any pedestrians, CNG-run auto-rickshaws, and motorcycles.
According to the World Bank report in 2017, almost 1.18 million registered vehicles in Dhaka are responsible for the capital’s traffic condition. Due to the vehicle congestion on the road, the traffic speed dropped from 21 km to 7km per hour. The study also reported that it consumes 3.2 million working hours daily. Over the last 5.5 years, 0.85 million vehicles were registered additionally which worsened the traffic condition. At this time, the city dwellers found hope through the construction of Elevated expressways.
An elevated expressway might be termed a controlled-access highway, freeway, and expressway which is designed for high-speed vehicular traffic. The first controlled access highway evolved during the half of the 20th century on Long Island, New York in 1908. The launching of an 11.5 km segment elevated expressway from the Airport to Farmgate might be a hope for comprehensive change in the tailback-ridden capital Dhaka. More than an hour of travelling time reduced to 10 minutes to reach Farmgate from Airport.
Partial opening of the expressway benefits private car users while a full elevated expressway of 19.75 km from the Airport to Kutubkhali can benefit heavy vehicles inside the capital. Another 20 km Ashulia Elevated expressway is under construction with the deadline of June 2026. This expressway will be connected to the nearby area of the Airport after coming via Ashulia and Abdullahpur. Hence, the city dwellers will fully benefit after opening and connecting these two elevated expressways.
Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) and Italian-Thai Development Public Company signed a deal and the budget summed up to BDT 8940 crore in 2013. In addition, the Bangladesh government has to allocate BDT 4917 crore for land acquisition, resettlement and relocation of utility services. Further, the project faced severe difficulties in securing funds and land acquisition. Later the financial crisis was solved while Italian-Thai resolved 49% of its share to Chinese companies.
Hence, the partial opening of the expressway will educate the people to use the elevated expressway within the process of manual and electronic toll payment systems. The ultimate objective of the elevated expressway was to divert traffic and alleviate congestion at a large scale in the capital. Constructing a new and separate road in available land might offer substantial relief to the capital dwellers.
The end user of the expressway was the traveller between Motijheel and Uttara as well as the heavy vehicles involved in economic activities. To save travelling time and reduce the lead time in economic activities; the vertical or horizontal bypass of the industrial and local traveller became a crying need. The delays in the implementation of the project made unbearable situation around the construction area unbearable. It would be premature to evaluate the effectiveness of the expressway with the partial opening of the expressway.
However, both passengers and trucks will benefit if it connects Kutubkhali to the Airport and ultimately with Ashulia. Public Private Partnership (PPP) is a relatively new model in Bangladesh and it lacks substantial experience and mindset. To execute the project obtained by PPP, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) is needed with support from the stakeholders. The project is also time bound while the time and finance are interlinked with each other for the proper implementation of the project.
The sole owner of the land was Bangladesh Railway and it was presumed that it would be free of encumbrance. In contrast, the rams in the project added complexities to land acquisition. In addition, the formation of the Railway Ministry raised the new question of using railway land for the expressway project. Hence, the delay in the construction of the expressway living road increased suffering for the city dwellers and passengers of the connected roads.
The competition in the global apparel sector has increased while the lead time has become a competitive advantage to sustain in the competition. To ensure fast delivery of the goods, the global retailers shortened the lead time from 45 to 60 days, and even to 30 days. As a result, the apparel manufacturer opts for very expensive air shipment. In that case, the fast movement of the vehicle might be supporting the exporters which boosts economic growth and advancement.
Due to the traffic congestion and poor connectivity as well as inadequate facilities for exporting goods at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA); local apparel suppliers and exporters have raised their voices. Hence, personal cars and commercial vehicles from the south and north regions would have access to the expressway through Kutubkhali and Ashulia Point to HSIA.
With the increasing accidents in the expressway, the 55 km Mawa expressway turned into a death trap which is constructed to connect the capital with Bhanga. The lack of experience in driving in expressways and disrespect for the traffic rules might be responsible for the increasing number of accidents and deaths. As per Highway Police data, in 2021, 196 accidents took place which caused 74 deaths and 265 injured severely. In addition, many accidents are not reported which are out of the record.
Private cars and motorcycles deny the speed limit while driving on the expressway. Similarly, commercial buses pick up and drop passengers from anywhere on the expressway. The same problem might arise in the Kutubkhali–Airport–Ashulia expressway as well. The premature speed racers on the expressway must be controlled and managed to serve the ultimate purpose of the elevated expressway. Even the TikToker created a crowd on the expressway to shoot the comedy reels.
The first expressway driver doesn’t know what they are doing and they must need some orientation. Before and after the construction of the expressway project should be passed through four stage audits. The Roads and Highway Department conducted a safety audit before the construction but skipped the post-construction safety audit. In that case, Mawa Expressway is not serving the purpose of an expressway as there is a bus bay and buses can start and stop anywhere.
Millions of people come to Dhaka for their personal, official, business and other activities and come back home, many of them use aircraft for saving time and having comfort journey. The Expressway has been a miracle to them. Now they can ply Airport to Farmgate within shortest time. Although the traffic congestion is increased in the entry and exit points but hopefully it will be lessened when the whole project will be opened.
To get full benefits from the project, human and traffic congestion, traffic efficiency, safety, medical service, crossing barrier accidents, and run-off road accidents must be addressed to ensure efficient expressway service. To overcome such difficulties, the decision maker should plan in advance and the safety operations as well as countermeasures should be promoted to get the support from the stakeholder during the project implementation.