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Sunday, 5 May 2013

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Southern expressway extension from Galle to Matara by year's end:

Ninety-minute drive from Colombo to Matara

"To provide an adequate and efficient network of national highways, to ensure mobility and accessibility at an acceptable level of safety and comfort, in an environment-friendly manner for the movement of people and goods in the socio-economic development of the nation", was the mission of the Ministry of Highways when it completed the National Road Master Plan (NRMP) in 2007, after a great effort was made for two years commencing from 2005.

The preparation of the National Road Master Plan was in conformity with the Mahinda Chinthana manifesto presented by President Mahinda Rajapaksa aiming 'to provide accessibility to all population in the country and to have a high and quality mobility road network for the transportation of passengers and goods' in its effort to making Sri Lanka the 'Wonder of Asia'.

The preparation of the NRMP was a timely effort firstly because the 'transport in Sri Lanka is overwhelmingly roads-based and a large portion of the network is in a poor condition and has become an impediment to efficient transport'.

Secondly, it is a key input into overall national income generation, the Government's development strategy has to count on a reliable transport system and the support from a coherent long-term approach to transport development. Thirdly, Sri Lanka's integration in the global economy rests also on efficient transport logistics, which, among other factors, is a determinant of the country's trade competitiveness'.

Therefore, the NRMP gave strong emphasis for the construction of the Expressways and Highways and it accounts for the highest share (36 percent) in the NRMP investment and gave emphasis on six major projects with a length of 594 km and an estimated cost of Rs. 238.3 billion spread over the entire program period of the NRMP spanning from 2007 to 2017.

The construction of Colombo-Katunayake expressway (25.1 km), Southern Expressway (130 km), Outer Circular Highway (28 km), Colombo Kandy Expressway (98 km), Colombo-Jaffna Expressway(213 km) and the Extension Southern Expressway (100 km) were the major projects that have been given top most priority by the NRMP.

Sri Lanka saw the first outcome of this NRMP prepared under the directive of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, when it opened the first ever 'E' grade road on November 27, 2011, heralding a renaissance in the highways sector of the country providing faster connectivity to the southern part of the country.

However, it was only a part of a bigger project of connecting the southern town of Matara to the metro Colombo and the balance of the project is now underway to complete the entire project providing access to southern city of Matara within one and half hours.

When the first phase of the Southern Highway which was opened on November 27, 2011 is now operating in full swing with an average of 10,000 vehicles operating on the highway on daily basis earning a daily income of the Rs. 3 million per day to the Road Development Authority the second phase of the project is also now going on at a speedy phase to be completed by the end of this year.

According to Project Director of the Southern Highway, Nimal Chandrasiri more than 60 percent of the work of the project from Pinnaduwa to Godagama has been completed by the contractors.

"The project was due to be completed at the end of April but due to various factors the contractor could not complete the project and now they have been asked to complete the project by August this year. They are trying their best to complete the project and we hope that the road will be ready by the end of this year," Chandrasiri told the Sunday Observer.

According to Chandrasiri, the original design of the expressway was drafted as a two-lane design, previously stretching from Kurundugahahetekma to Matara, was changed later to expand the highway to a four lane highway. By the time the design was changed more than 11 kilometres out of the 30 kilometres stretch from Pinnaduwa to Godagama have been constructed and that section is now being expanded to a four lane road.

The section from Pinnaduwa (Galle) to Godagama which is about 35km is financed by the Export and Import Bank of China.

"This stretch of the highway will also have the same features the first section of the road from Kottawa to Pinnaduwa and there will be three interchanges to connect the main cities in the south with this highway", he said.

The first interchange after Pinnaduwa will be at Imaduwa, to connect the highway with Galle-Akuressa Road. The other interchange will be there at Kokmaduwa. "Presently we called that interchange as Kokmaduwa interchange and there is a possibility to change the name as Weligama interchange. That interchange will connect the highway with Weligama-Kananke Road", he said.

The last interchange will be at Godagama to connect the southern expressway to Matara via Akuressa-Matara Road.

"The Godagama interchange will be a temporary one like the Kottawa interchange which was there at the opening of the highway and it will be fully changed once the southern highway is extended upto Beliatta", he said.

This section of the project will have four bridges, 46 underpasses, 12 box culverts and 236 pipe culverts.

He said the extension of the Southern Highway from Godagama to Beliatta is now at the designing stage and the Godagama interchange will be fully constructed once the Godagama-Beliatta section of the highways is constructed under a different project.

According to Chandrasiri, at the final stage the highway will be extended upto Hambantota and Mattala and that part of the project is under designing stage.

Asked whether there are any changes in that section of the project based on the feedback they receive from the motorists he said there were no major criticism over the first section of the Southern Highway.

"At the initial stages there were criticism that the paved part of the road is not sufficient for the vehicles to park by the side of the road in an even of a breakdown of a vehicle. However, this has not become a problem as yet because the road is not congested. There is no huge traffic along the road. The road is not having traffic sufficient for two lanes even. Therefore, that will not be a problem at all since the road is having four lanes. The traffic of the road will be gradually build up in the years to come according to the projections we made when the road was designed", he said.

"When we are calculating the toll for the road we are calculating how the traffic will increase on the road and we have calculated the traffic along the road to recover the project cost within 40 years after the completion of the road. We are taking a traffic projection when we are doing that calculation and we are within that projections", he said.

"We are targeting to improve this highway into a six lane highway. In the second section of the road also we are clearing the trace to accommodate six lanes. We are leaving that stretch for earth filling when the construction is going on", he said.

"Once completed this highway will enable to reduce the travel time from Colombo to Matara from four and half hours to one and half hours to two hours", he said.

The project will help improve transport facilities for future development of Southern Region and it will act as a catalyst in encouraging and attracting industries and services for the Economic and Social development of the region. It will also promote inter-regional transport facilities by developing this road, considering it as a major component of the proposed expressway network.

The main objectives of the project are also aimed at reducing the travel time between Colombo and Matara, reduce traffic congestion on Colombo-Matara Road, and reduce delay costs, fuel costs there by contributing to national economy. Attracting private sector investors and there by contributing to expand the job market, development of fisheries, agriculture, industries in the region, expanding tourism presently confined to the coastal belt, along Colombo-Galle-Matara to more inner areas of the southern province, development of Galle Port, Development of the towns belong to 11 interchanges as Economic Centres and enhancing the value of land and property in the region are also among the objectives to be achieved under this project.

However, the people of the country will be able to enjoy the true benefit of this expressway once this highway is connected to the other expressways which are now under construction, through the outer circular highway which is being built as a ring road to connect all these expressways together giving easy access to all parts of the country as stipulated in the National Road Master Plan.

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