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Parallel construction of Central Expressway to offset delays

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  • PM to meet Japanese ambassador over delayed Phase III funding 
  • China funding from Exim Bank for Phase I and II still unconfirmed 
  • Phase II to be completed by year end, RDA upgrading feeder roads     

By Chathuri Dissanayake

Construction of the Central Expressway Phase I will have multiple sections commencing simultaneously to cut down delays, the Road Development Authority (RDA) said yesterday, even though funding for the project remains gridlocked.    The country’s third expressway, designed to link the hill capital of Kandy with Colombo and the expressway network, is likely to get further delayed, as funding for Phases I and II is yet to be confirmed. 

Chinese firm Metall-urgical Corporation of China (MCC) was awarded the contract to build section one, and was also responsible for securing funding through a loan from  Exim Bank of China, participants at a forum organised by the Shippers Academy Colombo heard on Thursday.   

However, as a measure to minimise the delays, the RDA has instructed the Chinese construction firm responsible for the project to commence construction of several sections at the same time. 

“We have asked the construction firm to do the construction at different levels. We hope to finish work in two years,” said RDA Chairman Nihal Sooriyaarachchi. However, the estimated construction time is four years, as per the contract. 

The company has already spent its own funds - up to 7% of the total contract - to carry out preparatory work, Sooriyaarachchi added. “The condition of the contract was that the company would spend 7% to 8% of the contract sum, until funding is secured. They have done so, we can’t expect any more,” he said. 

Although Phase II of the project, funded and constructed using local resources, is set to be completed and open for public by the end of the year, the country will not be able experience the full benefits of the project, due to delays in the construction of the rest of the expressway as the Government struggles to secure funding.

Phase III of the project, which was to receive Japanese funding, has also run into trouble without being able to secure the money needed, and is yet to start. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is to hold discussions with the Japanese Ambassador today, Sooriyarachchi said, to find a way forward.  

In a bid to facilitate the use of the second section, which will be completed at the end of this year, the RDA is upgrading five feeder roads.

“The feeder roads will ensure that traffic is taken away from Kurunegala, and utilise section two and cut down on travel time by one hour,” Sooriyarachchi said. RDA will be spending its own funds to develop these roads, which will be completed along with Phase II, he said. 

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