Talk of knots and snags or in more conventional terms humanitarian issues, construction of the Southern Expressway did have its share of problems.
"But, we have now more or less surfed through such transitory manacles and are now well on target to complete this project on or before April 2011", said Admiral Wasantha Karannagoda, Secretary, Ministry of Highways and Road Development, and National Security Adviser.
He was speaking to journalists following a site visit to the Southern Express Highway development project, last week.
The press was invited to assess work continuation, particularly within the Asian Development Bank (ADB) funded road tract, a distance of about 30 kilometers.
The infrastructure in place was substantially vast, and in situ expertise garnered widespread technical input subscribing to intense technology and sustained physical work pointing to target for completion would very likely be met.
The Southern Transport Development Project (STDP) has several project components, said Country Director, Sri Lanka, Asian Development Bank, Dr. Richard Vokes, at the start of the press tour. The project partners are ADB, JICA, Nordic Development Fund (NDF) Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) and the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL).
The STDP will be Sri Lanka’s first access controlled expressway connecting Kottawa in the suburbs of Colombo to Matara in the Southern Province. The access road will be from the Pinnaduwa Interchange to Galle. Access to the expressway will be through eleven interchanges located at points where it crosses major roads and highways.
This is quite specifically a substantially large project considering the cost component and extent of work.
The ADB 30-kilomaters stretch is from Kurundugahaheteka to Pinnaduwa. The Chinese Exim Bank, the new funding agency (The contract to be signed during the week) will handle construction financing from Pinnaduwa to Godagama in the Matara district. This will be the last 30 kilometer road way at completion under the present financed project. Originally its costs were handled by JICA and the ADB.
Dr. Vokes said the original loan covered two lane traffic and funds approval were for that extent. However on re- assessment, four lane expansion was considered involving subsidiary funding.
Initial phase and safety studies were financed by NDF and SIDA. Costing included planning. The entire project was planned by an American Company, Wilbur Smith. Planning initially was for two lane traffic later expanded to accommodate four lanes. However there are also planned provision for future expansion to six way traffic.
The ADB original loan was signed on November 25, 1999. Knots and snags already indicated included re-settlement and geological issues which caused delays in construction. These physical difficulties were indicated including some damage to a short expanse of bridge, which was fatal to an incidental pedestrian.
The problem was solved through a once-and-for-settlement of Rs. 5 million to the bereaved family.
Professor Thishan Jayasinghe from the University of Moratuwa was present to investigate and report on construction faults which caused the fatality. He said there were flaws in construction by the Japanese contractor, which had since been rectified. He also confirmed that a project of this magnitude did have accidents but effective safety measures were in place.
The original ADB loan was for $90 million signed in 1999, later expanded to an additional $90 million in 2008 to cover four lane expansion.
The main objectives of the project, which would run not in close proximally adjacent to the Galle road but some kilometers apart, would include future development of the Southern region, enhanced economic activity, reduction of poverty, security against possible tsunami damage, reduction of fatal and non fatal accidents.
Admiral Karannagoda said there would not be dogs, cats, cattle, or other such intrusions into the road way. Vehicular traffic would not include three wheelers or motor cycles. Also excluded would be containers and so on. The road would be used exclusively by four wheel traffic.
Vokes said that when the extension to Katunayake is also completed, the journey from Matara to the airport would not take anything more than one and a half hours.