Design for expansion of Muglin-Sisne Khola road nearing completionThe 96-kilometre stretch will have crawler lanes and fast lanes for slow and high-speed vehicles.
The Roads Department is close to finalising the design of the Muglin-Sisne Khola road which is being upgraded in a bid to end the perennial gridlock on the main highway leading to Kathmandu.
The 96-kilometre stretch will have crawler lanes and fast lanes for slow-moving and high-speed vehicles, respectively, the department said. Sisne Khola is the entrance to Nagdhunga tunnel whose construction began last month.
“There is heavy traffic on the narrow road, and slow-moving cargo vehicles hinder the smooth flow of faster automobiles. One vehicle breakdown can cause gridlock,” said Shivahari Sapkota, spokesperson for the Department of Roads.
“In order to resolve the problem, the department has prepared a road design with crawler lanes and a mixed lane approach with two and three dedicated lanes like on the Muglin-Narayanghat road.”
The crawler lane is reserved for slow-moving vehicles on uphill stretches. The department plans to build 5.5-metre main lanes and 2-metre crawler lanes where necessary, and shoulder lanes on both sides of the highway. The current width of the road section is 5.5 metres.
Although talk about expanding the road section into a four-lane highway surfaced years ago, the department has turned down the idea of building four lanes to avoid disputes with locals and paying hefty compensation.
A previous detailed project report called for leaving sections of the highway that cannot be widened due to the difficult terrain as they are and building bypasses across the Trishuli River to get around such bottlenecks.
The department has proposed to build retaining walls along treacherous road sections alongside the Trishuli River and in landslide-prone areas.
According to Sapkota, the department is planning to finalise the design by January, and start the tender process by March with a target to conclude the expansion project in four years.
The World Bank is financing the project under the $650-million Nepal Strategic Road Connectivity and Trade Improvement Project. The Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport is chipping in $125 million.
According to the multilateral financer, the proposed project plays a significant role in improving Nepal’s transport and trade connectivity with India, China and also Bangladesh and Bhutan via India.
“The proposed intervention on the Nagdhunga-Naubise-Muglin road is aimed at improving 96 kilometres out of the 270-kilometre Kathmandu-Birgunj corridor that is vital for trade between Nepal and India, and China via Rasuwagadhi,” said the World Bank.
Over 20,000 vehicles ply the Muglin-Sisne Khola road daily, and a major challenge will be ensuring smooth flow of traffic during the expansion period, as was encountered during the construction of the Narayanghat-Muglin section.
Travellers had to wait up to 12 hours to pass the 33-kilometre road section from Muglin to Narayanghat which links Prithvi Highway with the East-West highway.