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ISLAMABAD: The Central Development Working Party (CDWP) on Thursday approved the signal-free Islamabad Expressway extension project from Koral to GT Road worth Rs10.7 billion.

The CDWP then referred the project to the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) for a final approval. Ecnec is the forum to approve projects worth over three billion rupees.

The meeting of the CDWP was held under the chairmanship of Deputy Chairman Planning Commission Sartaj Aziz and attended by Secretary Planning Commission Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui and others.

“Today, our project was placed before the CDWP which approved it and decided to refer it to Ecnec,” Member Engineering CDA Sajjad Zaidi told Dawn. He said the civic agency was optimistic that Ecnec would approve the project at its upcoming meeting likely to be held on Tuesday.

Reconstruction of Islamabad Expressway from Koral to Rawat is to be completed by Sept 2019 at a cost of Rs10.7bn

CDA Chairman Usman Bajwa in March this year had requested Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi for a grant of Rs10.7 billion to complete the project. In the first phase, the expressway has been made signal free and widened from Zero Point to Koral Interchange.

In the next two phases, the highway will be expanded up to GT Road in Rawat. However, the prime minister decided to fund the project through the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP).

As a result, the CDA had to revise the original PC-I and get it approved from the CDWP and Ecnec.

Earlier, in response to the CDA chairman’s request, the Prime Minister Office had stated that the Ministry of Finance had been directed to release Rs1bn in the ongoing financial year as a supplementary development grant to allow the CDA to initiate the work immediately.

An amount of Rs7bn has been allocated for the project in the 2018-19 PSDP and Rs2.75bn will be set aside in the 2019-20 PSDP. However, sources in the CDA said the Rs1 billion were yet to be released by the finance ministry.

In the first phase, the highway will be expanded from Koral Interchange to Naval Anchorage, a five kilometre stretch - while the seven km distance from Naval Anchorage to GT Road in Rawat will be constructed in the second phase.

According to the PM’s directive, the CDA is supposed to complete the first package by June 2019 and the second by Sept 30, 2019.

The first phase of the project was inaugurated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in July 2015. Under the original PC-I, the expressway was to be widened to five lanes from Zero Point to GT Road in Rawat, linking it to Motorway II within two years.

The CDA in 2015 changed the PC-I and decided to execute the project in phases due to financial constraints.

The first phase consisted of widening four km of the expressway from Zero Point to Faizabad and then in the second phase the road was widened up to Koral Chowk.

The CDA will expand the existing four lanes from Koral Interchange to Naval Anchorage to eight by adding two rigid lanes and rehabilitating the flexible lanes. Three bridges – at Korang, Bhinder and the railway stop – will also be constructed besides service roads.

Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2018