RDA undertakes Rs. 300b road and highway development projects | Sunday Observer

RDA undertakes Rs. 300b road and highway development projects

8 September, 2019
Nihal  Sooriyaarachchi
Nihal Sooriyaarachchi

The Road Development Authority (RDA), the premier highway authority responsible for the maintenance and development of national highways in the country, has undertaken work on road and highway development to the tune of around Rs. 300 billion this year while certain projects are to be completed and commissioned shortly, RDA Chairman Nihal Sooriyaarachchi told the media on the progress of RDA projects at the Media Ministry last week.

He said only around 171 kilometers of expressways were commissioned from 1998 to 2014 whereas between 2015 and 2016 alone around 106 km of roadway was opened with 96.6 km from the Southern Expressway and 10 km from the Outer-circular Expressway.

“We were unable to complete the second stage of the Central Expressway on time because of the political turmoil in October last year followed by the Easter Sunday bomb attacks which delayed the commissioning by around five months,” Sooriyaarachchi said. However, according to the RDA chief, the second stage of the Central Expressway will be completed in March next year.

“We are confident that work on the second stage will be completed in time with the support of local and foreign construction professionals,” the RDA chief said, adding that the delay in completing work on the first stage was due to funds not coming in time. An RDA official said funding for any development project does not come as soon as the agreement has been signed. Work on the project must take off for funds to be disbursed by the lender.

The first stage of the Central Expressway hit a snag following the delay in disbursing the loan by the China Export-Import Bank due to certain preconditions that Sri Lanka had to fulfill. The China Exim Bank extended a loan to the value of US$ 1 billion for the Kadawatha-Mirigama stretch of the expressway. However, the government has to pay the advance to contractors.

“Around seven percent of the first stage has been completed and the rest could be done only when the funds come.

The Treasury has agreed to pay the 15 percent advance to the contractors. We expect the funds to come within the next two to three weeks,” Sooriyaarachchi said.

Work on the Badulla-Chenkalady road development project is in progress. The project which covered Passara, Lunugala, Bibile, Padiyathalawa, Thampitiya under two phases is scheduled to be completed by June 2020.

However, when asked whether the delay for the release of the loan for the first stage was due to the construction estimates, the RDA chief said it was not the reason and went on to say the construction price per unit depends on the material components that go into each unit.

“The funding for the third phase of the Central Expressway is being worked out and work on the section will get off the ground soon,” Sooriyaarachchi said.

However, the government came under heavy flak from the Opposition which alleged that the cost of the project had increased under the current government.

Refuting the allegation, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on an earlier occasion said the government managed to cut down construction costs in the third phase of the project by Rs.25 billion following negotiation with a Japanese company.

The initial estimate for the section was Rs. 159 billion. However, through negotiations the government brought it down to Rs. 134 billion.Phase three comprising 34 kilometres is from Pothuhera to Galagedera.

Meanwhile the stretch from Matara to Hambantota spanning 96 kilometers and 24.4 metres in breadth is to be completed in four stages by the end of this year.

The estimate for the completion of the four stages of the project is Rs. 242.21 billion.

The Outer Circular development project comprising 9.63 km in length and 24.5 metres in breadth will be connected to the Southern expressway by November this year according to the RDA chief.