The abandoned, yet, much-awaited 24 kilometre Colombo Katunayake Expressway could end up as a white elephant. Its 1994 cost estimation was Rs 5 billion; if completed now, it will cost Rs 35 billion ($350 million) making it the most expensive expressway built in the world, a RDA - Road Development Authority official told a seminar last week.
The Chamber of Construction Industry Sri Lanka (CCISL) proposed its replacement with a Colombo Kandy Expressway running through Minuwangoda, with a node of six kilometres to the international airport.
The enormous volumes of sea sand, pumped from the safe distance of a few kilometres off the coast, and went into the filling to construct this abandoned expressway could be sold to the construction industry, starved for sand. It would supplement government coffers, CCISL president, Surath Wickremasinghe said.
The land acquired for the expressway could be made used to develop eco-tourism, or other gainful purposes, others in the construction industry said.
CCISL held a seminar on `Land transport infrastructure for economic development', intent on deliberating on the nexus between land transport infrastructure and economic development. Making the inaugural speech, Wickremasinghe touched on some of his observations, on schemes, he had been associated with. His comments were deliberated on, during the course of the seminar.
The proposed 24 kilometre stretch of the Colombo Katunayake Expressway, if carried out, must be reconsidered to optimise financial benefits, taking into account, technical and feasible reports. This expressway is designed to take traffic of goods and passengers to and out of the Katunayake international airport.
Yet another alternative would be to invest on an elevated expressway built above the existing railway track to Katunayake. Similar models have been built internationally between cities and its airports and ports.
Wickremasinghe cited the example of the 36 kilometre expressway between Bangalore City and its airport in Devanahalli, where a toll-based elevated expressway is accompanied with a mono or lite rail. Wickremasinghe referred to the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh who said early February, that to achieve an economic growth rate of 7-8 percent, India needed greater investment in infrastructure, such as roads, ports, telephones, airports, railways and power.
Wickremasinghe also referred to the Nadi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprise Ltd the agency implementing the Bangalore-Mysore Infrastructure Corridor project had proposed a high-speed, dedicated elevated toll road linking the airport to the heart of the city. Here, a monorail could be run on the central median, Wickremasinghe said.
The economic advantages of the proposed elevated expressway between Colombo and the Katunayake airport, are the trace is unencumbered for both rail and road transport with intersections at key railway stations; faster and shorter travel as against the ground level trace to the airport; higher contribution to economic development arising from more uses of goods, traffic and passengers; the compatibility of the road trace with planned expansion of the International Airport from five million to twelve million passengers per year by 2010 and the Colombo Port to eight million TEUs by 2015. (EL)