Master plan drawn up for massive bridge, tunnel, expressway connectivity

The Bangladesh Bridges Authority (BBA) aims to undertake 77 projects over the next 30 years, including the construction of 47 bridges, three tunnels, and 27 expressways spread across the country, as outlined in its first master plan.

Sources within the BBA and Bridges Division say among the projects, six bridges have been proposed to be built over the Padma River, seven bridges over the Meghna River and three bridges over the Jamuna River.

While some experts see the initiative positively, recognising its potential to enhance connectivity across the country, others express scepticism regarding its viability given the current economic situation.

Among the projects outlined in the master plan, 13 are prioritised for implementation by 2035, with a specific emphasis on enhancing communication links between the eastern and western regions of the country.

The priority projects include two bridges over the Padma River along the Paturia-Goalanda and Pabna-Rajbari roads, three bridges over the Meghna River Shariatpur-Chandpur, Gazaria-Munshiganj and Bhola-Lakshmipur roads, and a tunnel beneath the Jamuna River.

The areas of Balashi Ghat in Gaibandha and Bahadurabad in Jamalpur have been chosen for the construction of the Jamuna River tunnel.

Furthermore, the BBA plans to construct an elevated expressway, an inner elevated circular road, and a subway within the capital city. These initiatives aim to reduce traffic congestion and streamline vehicle movements from various regions of the country.

According to BBA sources, TYPSA Consulting Engineers & Architects, a Spanish company, is serving as a consultant for the master plan’s implementation. While the company has already identified 77 projects, the final report is expected to be submitted by next June.

Md Monjur Hossain, secretary of the Bridges Division, said a comprehensive list has been compiled detailing the anticipated need for bridges and related infrastructure in Bangladesh over the next 30 years.

He further said all projects will be executed in phases, with feasibility studies already in progress for certain projects and pre-feasibility studies underway for others.

What experts say

Dr Mustafa K Mujeri, former Director General of BIDS, said, “It is a very ambitious plan. Considering the current economic situation, it might be better not to implement such a plan.” 

“If projects of this magnitude are implemented, they will exert significant pressure on the economy. In this scenario, new projects should be undertaken only after the completion of all the mega projects currently under implementation,” he said.

Ferdaus Ara Begum, chief executive officer of the Business Initiative Leading Development (BUILD), said, “It is commendable that the BBA is taking proactive steps. Upon reviewing the logistics costs of 13 countries, it was evident that our country’s logistics costs are notably high. Despite having significant infrastructure such as the Padma Bridge, further investment in infrastructure facilities would be beneficial for us.”

However, she cautioned that while many projects may initially seem economically viable or attractive to the private sector, a thorough cost-benefit analysis might reveal alternative approaches.

Md Mamun-Al-Rashid, former secretary of the Planning Commission, emphasised the importance of assessing the potential returns of every infrastructure project. 

“Many projects in our country are being implemented at costs 4-5 times higher than market prices. This issue should be prioritised in the master plan. If projects can be executed with foreign financing at market prices, it will decrease pressure on debt repayment,” he said.

He said, “Due to inefficiency and a lack of proper surveys , projects cannot be implemented on time in our country. This results in not realising the benefits of the project at the scheduled time and ballooning costs. This issue should be prioritised in the implementation of the master plan.”

Transport experts say relying on a master plan for river connectivity is insufficient. They advocate for the development of comprehensive master plans that incorporate multi-dimensional communication systems.

Md Shamsul Hoque, transport expert and professor at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET),”The experience of the Padma Bridge suggests that the pressure on Dhaka has intensified. Job creation through land utilisation should be integrated into the master plan. Simply building bridges will further worsen population pressures in big cities.”

He cautioned against building tunnels, noting that their construction and operating costs are typically 2-3 times higher than those of bridges.

While applauding the proposal to construct 27 expressways in the master plan, he said, “It is a wise decision. Given our limited land and large population, adopting an elevated expressway strategy is imperative. This approach allows for multiple uses of the same land and eliminates the need for land acquisition.”

Projects prioritised to be implemented by 2035

The BBA intends to construct a 6-km bridge over the Padma River along the Paturia-Goalanda road. Initially estimated at Tk16,351 crore in a pre-feasibility study conducted in 2004, the Bridges Division now estimates the construction cost to be Tk31,200 crore.

BBA officials say the second Padma bridge will establish a direct connection between Paturia and Goalanda, facilitating direct access from Dhaka to the western and southwestern districts.

The bridge will offer direct connectivity to key land ports such as Benapole and Darshana, as well as the seaport of Mongla.

The master plan prioritises a proposal for an additional bridge over the Padma River, to be constructed along the Pabna-Rajbari road. The BBA has initiated a pre-feasibility study for this bridge’s construction with the draft report estimating its cost at Tk12,502 crore. The bridge is expected to span 3.86 kilometres in length.

Three bridges over the Meghna River

The Bridges Authority has outlined plans to construct three bridges over the Meghna River by 2035 as part of the master plan.

One of these bridges is designated for the Shariatpur-Chandpur road aiming to enhance connectivity between the southeastern and southwestern regions of the country.

With a length of 8 km, the bridge project will also entail the construction of around 8.6 km of associated roads.

Once completed, vehicles travelling between Khulna, Barisal, Chattogram, and Sylhet will no longer need to pass through Dhaka  reducing traffic congestion in the capital, according to BBA officials.

The feasibility study for this bridge is nearing completion with the estimated cost outlined in the draft final report standing at Tk15,957.21 crore.

Another bridge, with a length of 2.42 km, is slated for construction over the Meghna River along the Gazaria-Munshiganj road. The estimated cost of the project is Tk15,354.61 crore.

The Bridges Authority has initiated a pre-feasibility study for the construction of another bridge over the same river at the Bhola-Lakshmipur ferry ghat.

BBA officials say the Bhola-Laxmipur (Maju Chowdhury’s Hat) ferry ghat serves as a vital inter-district transport route for residents of 21 districts, encompassing 12 districts from Khulna and Barisal divisions, as well as nine from Chattogram division.

Presently, the pre-feasibility study for the bridge construction is ongoing with the survey expected to conclude by June 2024.

Dhaka East-West Elevated Expressway

According to BBA sources, the expressway project will link Hemayetpur on the Dhaka-Aricha highway, the Dhaka-Mawa highway, and Langalbandh on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway.

Officials say if the expressway project is implemented, vehicles from eastern, southwestern, and northwestern districts will have the option to traverse within their respective districts via the expressway, bypassing the need to enter Dhaka city.

The feasibility study for this project was conducted in 2017, indicating a proposed length of 39.23 km for the expressway with an estimated cost of Tk16,388.50 crore.

A bridge over Tentulia and Kalabadar rivers

Another project slated for implementation by 2035 is the construction of a bridge over the Tentulia and Kalabadar rivers on the Barisal-Bhola road.

BBA sources indicate that a feasibility study was undertaken in 2020 for the proposed bridge with the study currently undergoing review.

Preliminary findings from the draft feasibility study suggest that the construction of the 10.86-km-long bridge will require an estimated investment of Tk17,466.32 crore.

Inner elevated circular road in Dhaka

The Bridges Division has formulated plans to complete the construction of the Dhaka Inner Elevated Circular Road by 2035. Currently, a feasibility study for the project is in progress. The Bridges Division anticipates that the implementation of the project will mitigate traffic congestion in Dhaka and Narayanganj.

Construction of a subway in Dhaka

Officials say a feasibility study was conducted from 2018 to 2021 to assess the construction of a subway spanning around 238 km across a total of 11 routes, aimed at alleviating traffic congestion throughout Dhaka city.

The consultancy firm conducting the feasibility study proposes that the four routes in Phase-1 should be completed by 2030. The estimated cost for the construction of these 4 Phase-1 routes is Tk3,37,299 crore.

Tunnel or bridge on Cox’s Bazar-Maheshkhali channel

The master plan includes a proposal for the construction of either a tunnel or a bridge across the Cox’s Bazar-Maheshkhali channel. The Bridges Division indicates that the pre-feasibility study for this project is currently underway. According to the draft final report of the survey, the estimated cost for the project is Tk8,093.21 crore.

22 km elevated expressway in haor in Sunamganj and Netrokona

The Bridges Authority has initiated a pre-feasibility study for the construction of a 22-km elevated expressway in Sunamganj and Netrakona, aimed at enhancing road connectivity with the northern region of the country from Sylhet through Sunamganj-Mymensingh.

The feasibility study is expected to conclude by June 2024. Upon implementation, this project with an estimated cost of Tk14,858 crore is anticipated to reduce the distance from Sylhet to Rangpur by around 100 km.

Construction of the 2nd Muktarpur Bridge

Officials from the Bridges Division said proposals have been made to construct the 2nd Muktarpur Bridge over the Dhaleshwari River along the Dhaka-Munshiganj road. The first Muktarpur Bridge on the same river was opened for traffic in January 2008.

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