LAHORE - The Punjabs first gigantic project 'Shalamar Interchange, which includes one flyover, two underpasses, two bridges and service roads along the canal at Mughalpura, at a cost of Rs 2.1 billion is all set to be completed and opened to all sort of traffic on December 31, 2009, a new year gift for the residents of the provincial metropolis. Two underpasses and two bridges have already been soft opened to traffic. The deck of the flyover is complete and carpeting is in process. The eastern side of the flyover will be opened within the next 10 days followed by the western one on December 31, 2009. The landscaping and finishing is about to start with a focus on incorporating the glorious Moghul tradition with this state-of-the-art project. The triple-decker project is 94 per cent completed while the remaining 6 per cent will be done by the set deadline. Earlier, the three-level interchange bypassed two deadlines set for its completion - September 30, 2009 and November 14, 2009. The deadlines could not carry consensus between the Punjab government and the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO), constructing the Shalamar Interchange. The Lahore High Court (LHC) has summoned City District Nazim Mian Amer Mahmood on December 15 (today), on a petition challenging delay in the construction of the Interchange. Reliable sources disclosed that the Punjab government had exerted extreme pressure on the FWO to complete the project on the deadlines. However, the authority concerned had termed the deadlines far-fetched and unviable due to the quantum of work, they said and added, This is the first time when the government and FWO agreed to accomplish the project by December 31, 2009. The Shalamar Interchange, excluding two underpasses, was announced in September 2008, by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif at the cost of Rs 1.6 billion. Later, with inclusion of two underpasses on the canal, the construction cost reached Rs 2.1 billion. The cost was about to climb up further, if construction of various approaching roads connecting Shalamar Interchange worth Rs 256 million was incorporated in the project. But the Planning and Development (P&D) declined the move, saying the new entry would make the project cost-prohibitive. The three-level interchange will greatly help improve traffic flow in the City. The flyover passing over the canal and the railway line will conveniently connect the City and Cantonment. The Shalamar Link Road starting from the GT Road near the Shalamar Gardens and passing through the Garrison (where it is called Tufail Road), and ending at the Ferozpur Road near Qainchi will become a convenient connector of the sprawling City. Under the project, 1.6 km long flyover is 4-lane dual carriageway. It has around 150 streetlights in the central median. Out of two bridges one bridge has 18 meter width and 21 meter length while second bridge has 4 meter width and 21 meter length. The bridges from the entry and exit points are 4-lane while in the middle it turns into 6-lane dual cartridge way. While 310 meters long underpasses are 50 meter high and 11 meter wide. They will benefit approximately 35,000 vehicles across the canal. On the canals side the underpasses on both sides will convert the Canal Bank Road into a signal free corridor in its entire length. Besides facilitating the growing traffic at a chokepoint, the project will greatly benefit the Mughalpura Dry Port and the visitors going towards Shalamar Gardens or Jallo Park. As it is in proximity to the Wagha Border, it should be a major infrastructure development for strengthening trade and strategic aspects with India as well. The major factors that really damaged the pace of the project were: dislodgement of the provincial government, addition of two underpasses and bridges, design was adapted and improved a several times keeping in view the ground situation, lack of record (as built diagrams) of underground services like sewerage, water supply, PTCL and electric cables that hindered excavation work, the project area passed through the land of different departments such as Railways, Police, Irrigation and Defense. Many houses, shops, mosques and encroachments coming in the right of way were cleared after a prolonged effort.