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Metro rail and expressway set to collide on Mirpur Road

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The construction of an overhead expressway and an underground metro line along the same stretch of Mirpur Road in Dhaka has been dismissed as “impossible” by experts, who are urging the authorities to reconsider their conflicting plans. The proposed third line (MRT-5) of the Dhaka Metro Rail project will connect the eastern and western parts of the city from Bhatara to Aminbazar via the residential areas of Gulshan-Banani, curving towards Hatirjheel through Mirpur Road. At the same time, the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) is planning to build an elevated expressway over Mirpur Road under a public-private partnership (PPP) program.

Dhaka Transport Coordination Authority (DCTA) officials said the construction of an expressway project was not included in the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP) passed by the Cabinet last year. Experts agree that improving the existing road transport system is far more advantageous than building flyovers or expressways above existing roads. Many feel that instead of preventing traffic jams, flyovers are actually adding to the traffic congestion.

“It is clear that flyovers are not the solution to reduce traffic jams, as most of the time, vehicles remain stuck on upward and downward ramps of the flyovers,” Prof Shamsul Haq, of the Civil Engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said. “On the other hand, the metro rail will be able to carry a much higher number of passengers than buses or other private vehicles.”

Costs ‘prohibitive’

Work is already underway on the first metro rail line, from the Uttara residential area in the north of Dhaka to the city’s commercial centre in Motijheel. When that is completed in 2020, the DTCA is due to begin the construction of MRT line-5.

Prof Sarwar Jahan, of the Urban and Regional Planning department at BUET, said the costs of also building an expressway along much of the same route would prove to be prohibitive.

Workers busy at the construction site of the elevated expressway project in Kuril Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune “Though it is technically possible to build a metro rail and expressway in a similar alignment, it is not possible to do it in Dhaka, as it would be extremely expensive,” he said. Under the proposed plan, the 10.5km-long expressway will be constructed over the Mirpur Road corridor under a PPP initiative of the prime minister’s office.

Finance will be provided by Maisha Group Ltd, of which Awami League leader Aslamul Haque Aslam is chairman.

Feasibility study

Officially known as the integrated elevated Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), the expressway has been designed as a six-lane flyover with two dedicated bus lanes and four express toll lanes. It will have eight BRT stations and pedestrian crossovers at Gabtoli, Technical, Shyamoli, Manik Mia Avenue, Russell Square, Science Laboratory, New Market, Azimpur and Palashi areas. It will also have 15 exit ramps at different points.

Metro rail and expressway set to collide on Mirpur Road

A model of the Dhaka metro rail project

However, when officials of the Maisha group presented a BRT documentary to the prime minister, a number of objections were raised regarding the safety of her official residence at Gono Bhaban, and the lack of alternative transport on the Mirpur Road corridor. The prime minister directed officials to conduct a feasibility study and shift the project to Satmasjid Road. Saleh Uddin, a consultant to Maisha Group and a former executive director of DTCA, told the Dhaka Tribune that the results of the feasibility study show it is impossible to build a flyover on Satmasjid Road.

“The flyover will be based on the existing median of Mirpur Road,” he said. “Although it is not listed in the Revised Strategic Transport Plan (RSTP), when it gets revised again, the plan for the expressway will be included.”


The residents of Dhanmondi, Kalabagan, and other adjacent areas are also concerned that the expressway construction work will create major difficulties for them. According to Prof Shamsul, the residents of Dhanmondi would suffer the most. “The construction of a six-lane flyover would take nearly two lanes to build the pillars, which would result in immense traffic congestion in neighbouring areas,” he said. “We saw how roads were blocked and traffic disrupted during the construction of the Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover.

Is it really feasible to build a flyover and a metrorail at the same time? “A political group is trying to take advantage of the expressway project, although we all know flyovers were never the perfect solution to reduce traffic congestion in Dhaka.” Saleh Uddin disagreed, saying a six-lane flyover can be built on a single lane on the ground.

“There will be plenty of space to build the underground metro rail,” he said. “The flyover will continue for 20 to 30 metres underground, and the flyover pillars will have a depth of not more than 10 metres.”

Prof Sarwar Jahan said a flyover could only be built above ground and the metrorail underground if the authorities apply the latest technology, including the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) method.

“Even in advanced countries, (this) is a highly expensive procedure,” Sarwar said. “Due to limited advanced technology and operators in Dhaka, it might just be impossible.”

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