Government finalises contracts to widen Prithvi HighwayTraffic on one of busiest highways in the country is expected to ease once the project is completed, officials say.
The government has taken a step forward towards widening the Prithvi Highway with the contracts already finalised for the development of two main sections of the road linking Kathmandu and Pokhara.
The government plans to widen the existing two-lane highway into four lanes. To that end, the Department of Roads has awarded the contract of widening the Anbu Khaireni-Jamune highway section to China Communications Construction Company. It has also picked Anhui Kaiyuan Highway and Bridge Co Ltd, another Chinese firm, for the highway widening project from Jamune to Pokhara.
Prithvi Highway was built with Chinese assistance and was completed in 1974. Being one of the busiest highways in the country, it faces frequent traffic jams. The highway traffic is expected to ease once the project is completed.
“The contractor is likely to be mobilised at the Anbu Khaireni-Jamune highway section after April 15,” said Sushil Dhakal, chief of project directorate (Asian Development Bank) at the Department of Roads. “In the case of the Jamune-Pokhara section, we are preparing to issue a letter of acceptance for contract award in a few days. The contractor will be mobilised in the field within the next two months.”
Prem Prakash Khatri, project director for Jamune-Pokhara section of Anbu Khaireni-Pokhara road, said that construction work is expected to be completed by the end of 2024.
“The contractor will also be responsible for the maintenance of the highway section for another five years,” he said.
In October 2019, the Asian Development Bank had approved a loan of $195 million to upgrade the 81-km Pokhara-Anbu Khaireni section of Prithvi Highway into four lanes. The government is supposed to inject $59 million into the project as a counterpart fund.
Meanwhile, the road department has also started the contractor selection process for the upgradation of the Muglin-Naubise section of Prithvi Highway. The section is being upgraded with the financial assistance of the World Bank. The global lender and the Nepal government had signed a loan agreement to this end in July last year.
The World Bank will finance the project from its $450 million loan that it agreed to provide to Nepal to upgrade and expand 82.4km Muglin-Naubise road as well as the Kamala-Dhaldebar-Pathalaiya road section of East-West Highway.
According to the Department of Roads, the Muglin-Naubise section will have different lanes—two, three and four—depending on the geographical situation.
The department on March 25 had invited applications from eligible and qualified bidders for the pre-qualification process to select a contractor to expand and improve the Nagdhunga-Naubise section of the road.
“A detailed design has also been prepared linking the Muglin-Anbu Khaireni section with an alternative road,” said Dhakal. “The ADB has shown interest to fund the alternative route n as well.”
Dhakal added Prithvi Highway needed to be widened into four lanes due to high traffic volume.
The highway, particularly from Muglin to Kathmandu, serves as the main gateway to Kathmandu for vehicles coming from eastern, western and southern parts of the country. Around 8,000 vehicles ply the road daily, according to the road department.
Currently, the capital city does not have a reliable alternative to Prithvi Highway as the main supply line. A number of road projects including Kathmandu-Nijagadh Fast Track, Kanti Rajpath connecting Kathmandu to Hetuada, and Kathmandu-Hetauda Tunnel Road have been planned as alternative routes, but the progress of these projects remains poor, according to the road department.
“Since traffic volume in the Prithvi Highway continues to rise and since there are no better alternative routes, it requires major upgrading,” said Dhakal.