ISLAMABAD-The federal government instead of allowing Capital Development Authority (CDA) to start widening of Islamabad Expressway with its own resources is insisting to complete the project on public-private partnership mode but at almost four times higher cost.

The original cost of said project was around Rs10 billion, however, the government wants to complete it with Rs45 billion on public-private partnership mode. The Planning Commission of Pakistan has included expansion of Islamabad Expressway in Public Sector Development Programme Plus (PSDP-PLUS) with an estimated cost of Rs45 billion.

The federal government wants to lease out the right of the way of Islamabad Expressway to generate funding to make this project viable. However, the city managers are reluctant to complete this project on public-private partnership mode as they are of the view that the completion of project on such a high cost is not viable option and it should be completed with government funding.

A meeting in this regard was held with Deputy Chairman Planning Commission in chair in which Member Planning CDA Dr. Shahid Mahmood briefed the participants that the authority could not take up this project on public-private partnership mode as it involves a higher cost, whereas, the authority is also barred from doing such ventures according to its ordinance.

However, well-placed sources inside the authority claimed that the federal government is sticking with the idea and pushing CDA to prepare feasibility and design of said project for public-private partnership mode.

Earlier, after being neglected in federal budget and a cold response received from the private housing societies, the incumbent management of CDA had decided in September 2019 to develop Korang Bridge and an underpass at PWD as part of Islamabad Expressway Signal Free Corridor from its own resources.

The CDA had requested the federal government to allow the civic body for building aforementioned infrastructures with its own resources. However, the response of said correspondence is yet to be received. Sources informed that the federal government is reluctant to allow CDA to do these projects with its own resources as the civic body has not only sought a go ahead but also requested for financial adjustment on later stages against these projects.

The signal free corridor project was a brainchild of previous government of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and it was divided into two portions, from Zero Point to Koral and Koral to Rawat.

The first portion has already been completed with construction of four interchanges at I-8, Sohan, Khanna and Koral , but the second portion leading towards Rawat was facing delays due to lack of funding as earlier the civic body had declined to fund it while the project could not get required funds in PSDP for the year 2019-20 as well.

The previous government had allocated Rs7 billion in Public Sector Development Programme 2018-19 for the project. However, it was the incumbent government, which excluded the project while revising the PSDP.

The said portion of Islamabad Expressway is a picture of neglect and poor performance of government due to its dilapidated condition. Potholes and craters have turned the road into a permanent nuisance for commuters while daily traffic congestion is a mental torture for routine travellers.

According to an approved plan, in the second phase, the expressway was to be expanded from Koral to Naval Anchorage – a 5-kilometre stretch in first package.

It was decided that existing four lanes from Koral Interchange to GT Road would be increased up to eight lanes by adding two rigid lanes and rehabilitating the flexible lanes. Three bridges – at Korang, Bhinder and the Railway stop – were also a part of the approved project in addition to the service roads.