Promise of better connectivity with Dhaka Elevated Expressway
At a time when citizens are severely affected by Dhaka's traffic jams, which eat up around five million working hours per day (as per a 2018 Buet study), we welcome the opening of the Tk 13,857.57-crore Dhaka Elevated Expressway, which promises to relieve congestion in certain areas, reduce travel time, and significantly improve connectivity. The partially opened 11.5-km expressway from Airport Road to Farmgate aims to reduce the trip to a duration of 10 minutes from the usual hour or more. In addition, the 13 ramps for accessing and exiting the expressway will provide alternative routes for vehicles. Commuters will enjoy the total benefit of the project when the full 19.7-km expressway, from the airport to Kutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, is opened next year. The expressway promises to increase the road capacity of the capital by 20 km.
One noteworthy benefit is that heavy vehicles (such as trucks) which can only operate at night will be able to use the expressway and bypass the city, reducing the clogging on regular roads. The shorter lead times and improved infrastructure are anticipated to benefit businesses such as the apparel industry and the export of perishable goods, which rely on products reaching the airport on time for shipment through air. It will also connect major industrial belts such as Savar, Gazipur, Narsingdi, and Narayanganj. The Dhaka-Ashulia Expressway is also being built, with a deadline of 2026. The two expressways will enable people travelling from the northern, western, and south-western regions to bypass the congestion in Dhaka while crossing the city.
While we look forward to the significant changes this expressway and other under-development infrastructure will bring about, it is vital for the government to address all the concerns expressed by experts. The ramps, for instance, have to be managed efficiently. And a digital tolling system must be installed to avoid long queues of vehicles.
The Dhaka Elevated Expressway is part of a much bigger plan of modernising and expanding our transport network that will, no doubt, alleviate traffic congestion as well as provide greater and more efficient connectivity. At the same time, the government must focus on improving the existing roads under the expressways, flyovers, and the Dhaka metro rail, which will continue to be used by thousands of public transport users as these vehicles are unlikely to use expressways. The government must ensure that all these infrastructure projects are aligned with one another so that the transport system in its totality will see the dramatic positive change that they promise.
Finally, given the multiple setbacks this public-private partnership (PPP) project faced due to problems with securing funds, among other factors, the government should work on removing bureaucratic tangles that impede PPPs which, if managed efficiently, can bring about impactful developmental changes.