Government to build 16 greenfield expressways across country

The government on Thursday unveiled plans to build 16 greenfield expressways which will pass through relatively backward regions of the country to boost connectivity and ensure economic benefits reach these remote areas.

Highways minister Nitin Gadkari told Lok Sabha that the Vadodara-Mumbai, Jaipur-Ajmer-Ahmedabad and Amravati-Hyderabad-Bengaluru stretches are part of the 16 projects. About seven of these expressways were announced during UPA-1 in 2005 and the NDA government has added nine more projects as it seeks to revive the highways sector and boost growth.

It may take several years for the government to build these expressways as issues of land acquisition and tying up an enormous amount of funds for the projects is expected to take time. The state governments will have to be taken on board to fast track the process.

“The next phase of high way development will be the building of expressways. Some of the stretches have been proposed by state governments and they are showing keen interest to work out modalities for getting the required land for the corridors. For example, Andhra Pradesh wants Amravati and Hyderabad to get such an expressway and there is also a proposal for similar connectivity between Guwahati and Kolkata,” a senior highway ministry official said.

Highways minister Nitin Gadkari said the seven stretches cover ing 1,000 km at a cost of Rs 16,500 crore (cost of that year) were approved in January 2005 by the UPA-I and it was also decided to give top priority to the Vadodara-Mumbai corridor since it had maximum traffic density. The 93-km Ahmedabad-Vadodara stretch was the first expressway in the country.

As of now the government has launched construction of has launched construction of the 135-km Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE) around Delhi and work on the Delhi Meerut Expressway is scheduled to start on December 31.Officials said land acquisition issues for the 379-km Vadodara-Mumbai expressway have been resolved and the tender would be out by March.

A ministry official said expressways will mainly cater to commercial traffic and heavy vehicles. “When the Golden Quadrilateral was planned there were concerns whether those stretches will get enough traffic and how funds can be made available for such a mammoth task. But it happened and most of these stretches have either been widened or are being expanded to accommodate increasing traffic,” he added.

Officials claimed the feasibility of all the stretches were being undertaken and added that a new mechanism would also be in place to implement these mega projects.

Admitting that getting land for these projects will be a tough task, the official said the ministry is working with state governments on different models. One of such models is land pooling and giving back certain portion of the developed land to the affected families. “We are exploring the new financing mechanism including cheap Japanese loans and even a portion of funding can come from the development charges that the state government will get once the land value goes up along the identified corridors,” the official said.