Suryabinayak-Dhulikhel road to become six-lane expresswayThe Rs10 billion project will allow motorists to zip from Kathmandu to Dhulikhel in about 30 minutes, officials say.
The project to widen the two-lane Suryabinayak-Dhulikhel road into a six-lane expressway has been brought back to life after years in deep freeze, officials said.
This 16-km stretch of Araniko Highway, which joins Kathmandu with the Chinese border, will be upgraded to Asian standard at a cost of nearly Rs10 billion.
It will have four motorable tracks and two service tracks on either side, but the tunnels proposed to be built at Sanga have been left out as they were deemed too costly.
According to project officials, the scheme has been broken into two sections. The contract for the 7.5-km Suryabinayak-Sanga section was signed on Monday while the contract for the 8.5-km Sanga-Dhulikhel section was signed two weeks ago.
Project chief Rabindra Lal Das said construction would be completed in three years.
It takes 15 minutes to drive from Kathmandu to Suryabinayak, and another 30 minutes to Dhulikhel, according to a government report. After the highway is finished, motorists will be able to zip from Kathmandu to Dhulikhel in about 30 minutes, officials said.
Lama Construction Company has won the contract for the Sanga-Dhulikhel section and Ashish-Kumar Shrestha-Bandan Bhagawati JV has won the contract for the Suryabinayak-Sanga section.
“We have started a survey for the project," said Jip Tsering Lama, managing director of Lama Construction Company.
The 9-km Kathmandu-Bhaktapur road was widened to four lanes in 2011.
The 160-km Sindhuli Road, which branches off from Dhulikhel, was built with a Japanese grant aid, and opened to traffic in 2015. Its objective was to ensure benefits to the local residents along the way by developing opportunities to improve their livelihoods through agricultural commercialisation of high-value commodities under the “grow and sell” concept.
The road boosted farm incomes in Kabhrepalanchok, Dolakha, Ramechhap and Sindhuli districts by developing a value chain for vegetables and pushed economic revitalisation of the less developed area. Sweet orange farming is one notable success story.
The two-lane Suryabinayak-Dhulikhel section began overflowing with traffic due to two major causes. The first reason was a rapid increase in traffic demand in the capital. The second reason was increasing traffic flows into Kathmandu Valley as a result of the construction of Sindhuli Road.
The Nepal government then requested Japan for grant aid to widen the Suryabinayak-Dhulikhel stretch into four lanes.
Subsequently, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) carried out a preparatory survey in 2016 and conducted an additional study in 2018.
JICA proposed to build two tunnels under Sanga Pass on the valley rim—an inbound tunnel of 1,235 metres and an outbound tunnel of 1,294 metres.
The project was estimated to cost Rs22 billion with the tunnel and Rs16 billion without. Following a debate over the cost, JICA walked out of the scheme.
The then Minister of Physical Infrastructure and Transport Raghubir Mahaseth decided that the government would implement the project on its own.
“The minister was not convinced that it cost too much,” said a government official familiar with the matter. “We then opted to drop the tunnel.”
The project remained in deep storage for nearly two years, and then the Covid pandemic which started in 2020 brought everything to a halt. Eventually, a call for tenders was issued in August 2022.
"The road needed to be widened as traffic swelled after the opening of BP Highway, also known as Banepa-Bardibas Highway," said Bhimarjun Adhikari, spokesperson for the Department of Roads.
It has emerged as a major agricultural road allowing hundreds of farmers to ship their produce to Kathmandu.
“Around 1,200 motorcycles, buses, trucks and passenger vehicles stream out of Koteshwor and head for the highway daily,” said Inspector Kishor Tamang at the Koteshwor Traffic Police Office. “During the Dashain and Tihar festival season, the number of automobiles increases more than fivefold.”
JICA has expressed happiness that the project has now moved ahead.
“We are glad to know that the Department of Roads has utilised part of JICA’s study report to construct the new road,” said a JICA official.