Elevating Connectivity - Saving Dhaka from traffic-economic gridlock! A wonderful beginning for the future!! Airport to Farmgate in 10 minutes and many more!!! A new history unfolded on 2 September, 2023. Country’s first-ever 11.5 KM Dhaka Elevated Expressway, overhead transit is here to transform Dhaka forever, easing traffic, curbing pollution, bridging North and South, and gearing up country’s socio-economic momentum.
Bangladesh is experiencing one of the world’s great economic transformations, with GDP growing annually by between 5-7% for the last decade. The capital Dhaka is at the heart of this boom, although the city’s transport system has struggled to adapt to the rising population, traffic and aspirations.
The traffic in Dhaka is a nightmare at the moment. This Expressway will make a huge impact, allowing the private cars and motorbikes to travel from north to south in just 20 minutes. This is a big opportunity for commuters. I see it as a reflection of the way Bangladesh going – fast and in the right direction!
An elevated expressway, Bangladesh’s first major public private partnership (PPP) programme, aims to provide a release valve for the escalating pressure on the streets.
According to the World Bank, the average traffic speed in Dhaka has dropped from 21km per hour to just 7km per hour over the last decade. Traffic congestion in the capital accounts for over three million working hours every day, costing residents up to 2.27BN Taka (about £21M) a month.
Mini buses, trucks, auto-rickshaws and human-haulers compete with the rapid proliferation of private cars that reflect the spending power of the capital’s growing middle classes. Dhaka consistently features in the world’s worst five cities for air quality, while thousands of pedestrians and drivers are killed every year in road accidents on the city streets.
The layout of the city contributes largely to its traffic challenges. The industrial heartland is to the north – in particular, the readymade garment factories that have underpinned Bangladesh’s economic miracle. However, Chattogram Port is to the south of the city, where the textiles head out across the globe. Likewise, the residential areas are in the city extremities, meaning commuters must get up early to reach the financial district or the government offices towards the centre.
While there is a ring road, many vehicles still run the gauntlet through the city centre. When the streets are quiet – for example, in the middle of the night – the journey from north to south takes half an hour. During office hours, commuters can expect to waste two to three hours. Police marshal each intersection, as the traffic light system would only result in total gridlock.
The government of Bangladesh commissioned the construction of the Elevated Expressway, which is built through a PPP arrangement. Stretching 20km from Hazrat Shahjalal International airport to Kutubkhali in the south, the four-lane dual carriageway will act as bypass to alleviate traffic congestion within Dhaka city. With five interchanges, two end ramps and two elevated links, the toll-road will rise above the city, improving north-south connectivity and linking important commercial and business centres.
As this is the first PPP project in Bangladesh, our expertise in this area has proved valuable in helping the government adapt to demands and gain institutional knowledge.
Aside from the technical advice on the designs, one of our major achievements is around safety – something that is too often overlooked in Bangladesh. Having insisted on consistent adherence to basic site safety – for example, construction boots, vests and helmets – the project has recorded no injuries to date.Dhaka’s new 20km long elevated expressway – one of Bangladesh’s first public private partnership (PPP) transport projects – will alleviate congestion on the capital’s busy streets.
The people of Dhaka have developed a level of traffic tolerance that far exceeds that of the normal city dweller, regularly experiencing congestion that brings the city to a standstill. A return trip by car across Bangladesh’s capital can easily take four hours. The average traffic speed is 7km/h. Despite signs that Dhaka’s economy is growing – high-rises adding to the skyline, increasing car-use and a proliferation of new places to spend disposable incomes – investment in transport infrastructure has not kept up with the needs of a more affluent and mobile population.
Private cars compete for space with buses, scooters, motorbikes, auto-rickshaws and rickshaws in the crowded city of 18.2M. The city’s seemingly expert drivers move forward wherever there is space, like liquid filling a vessel. Traffic lights and regulations are regularly ignored. There is little or no space for pedestrians and air quality is poor.
With a climate of extremes between hot and wet weather, walking is a dangerous activity and not a viable option for most people. A small country with big ambitions, Bangladesh is moving in the right direction to reduce poverty. The proportion of people living below the poverty line halved to 25% between 2000 and 2016. But traffic congestion in and around Dhaka remains a barrier to progress. A new metro and several new road projects, including the Dhaka Elevated Expressway Project (DEEP), aim to alleviate the problem.
The 20km elevated expressway will create a new route across the city, connecting factories and the expanding international airport in the north of the city with the highway serving the main port of Chttogram in the south. The road will cut journey times from hours to minutes, while its distinctive Y-shaped concrete piers will add to the architecture of the city. With spans up to 40m, the 9.4m wide dual carriageway will take traffic off the streets below for around 125 Taka (US$1.5) per car and 500 Taka (US$6) per lorry per trip.
Currently, lorries only attempt the same journey at night when there is much less traffic. This puts a limit on factory output and stifles expansion. The expressway is now operational, goods can be transported 24/7, supporting the government’s development plans. With 27km of ramps to connect it to the existing road network, Dhaka’s medium-sized business owners are also reportedly keen to use the toll road and spend less of their day stuck in traffic.
At a minimum height of 5.5m, but rising up to 23m over existing roads and bridges, the ambitious road project is being delivered under a public private partnership (PPP) agreement between the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) and contractor Italian-Thai Development, represented by concessionaire First Dhaka Elevated Expressway (FDEE). It is one of Bangladesh’s first PPP transport projects. FDEE will build, operate, maintain and manage the US$1.2bn bypass under a 25-year concession that includes the three-and a-half-years it will take to build it. Vehicles will be able to travel 80km/h on the expressway when it is fully complete.
The Dhaka Elevated Expressway Project (DEEP) is being built in three sections: Hazrat Shajalal International Airport to Banani (7.5km), Banani to Moghbazar (6km) and Moghbazar to Kutubkhali (6.5km), where it will join the N1 Dhaka-Chittagong highway.
Tolls will be collected manually or electronically at eight plazas. A new multi-storey central control building will manage tolls and monitor traffic via cameras. Weighing bridges at entry ramps will alert drivers of overloaded vehicles to turn back on designated escape lanes and electronic signs will inform drivers about congestion or lane closures. The road surface is being designed to meet the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials load and resistance factor design AASHTO LRFD Construction Specification – 3rd Edition 2010 for asphalt type and quality.
Opening opportunities with connected thinking. When bridges are designed well, responding to context and their role they add value to a neighbourhood, region or state and instill pride, stories and character in our communities. The Dhaka Elevated expressway is an obvious example.
Dhaka Elevated Expressway is Bangladesh's first elevated expressway project, which will connect the Shahjalal airport with Kutubkhali via Mohakhali, Tejgaon, and Kamalapur of Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is one of the largest infrastructure projects taken up by the incumbent government to ease traffic congestion in the capital. It will be 46.73 km (153,300 ft) long including the connecting roads and will cost around US$1.1 billion.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 2 September, 2023 inaugurated the much-awaited 11.5-km Dhaka Elevated Expressway's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport-Farmgate section for traffic that is expected to significantly reduce the city's traffic congestion. She said on last Saturday that the opening of Dhaka Elevated Expressway is another milestone in the country's communication sector and it would play a significant role in reducing traffic congestion. She unveiled the nameplate of the expressway at Kawla end of the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport here, seeking welfare of the country and its people.
Traffic impacts, vehicular air pollution, noise pollution and vibration from traffic movement are potential significant impacts during operational phase of the Expressway. Traffic is allowed on the 11km stretch of the expressway a day after the inauguration. The government has announced the tolls for various vehicles. It has decided to ban three-wheelers and motorcycles on the expressway and set the speed limit at 60km per hour. The government hopes that the expressway will ease traffic congestion to a large extent.
The entire project completion period was from July 2011 to June 2024. The total length of the elevated expressway is 46.73km including 19.73km of the main elevated part. The expressway will cover Kawla, Kuril, Banani, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Moghbazar, Kamalapur, Sayedabad, and Jatrabari to Qutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.
According to project officials, the First Dhaka Elevated Expressway (FDEE) Company Ltd. is the investor company. Italian Thai Development Public Company Ltd has 51% of the shares, China Shandong International Economic and Technical Co-operation Group (CSI) has 34% and Sinohydro Corporation Ltd has 15% of the shares. The total expenditure of the project is estimated at Tk8,940 crore. Of the total cost, Tk.2,413 crore is being provided by the Bangladesh government.
The toll rates for vehicles accessing the expressway were officially disclosed last week. The toll charges are as follows: cars, taxis, jeeps, SUVs, microbuses (with fewer than 16 seats), and light trucks (under three tons) will have to pay Tk.80 to use the expressway. Medium-sized trucks (up to six wheels) will have to pay a toll of Tk.320, while trucks with more than six wheels will incur a charge of Tk.400. Additionally, all types of buses with 16 seats or more will need to pay Tk.160 to access the expressway.
We thank our Hon’ble PM Sheikh Hasina as she is our life-line. Her creativity, hard work, and dedication have finally won an achievement we have been coveting. Major life events merit congratulations and encouragement. Her expression of shared happiness adds to the enjoyment of a special moment for all of us!!!
Anwar A. Khan is a freedom
fighter who writes on politics
and international issues.