The deadline for the Cumilla-Noakhali regional highway upgrade project has been extended to June 2022, with around 60% work still to be done.
The project was scheduled to be completed by next month.
People using the highway have been suffering because of its very bad condition since 2014 and seem destined to suffer one more year at least.
The project's cost has been trimmed by Tk141 crore to Tk2,030 crore, said Reza-e-Rabbi, executive engineer, Cumilla Roads and Highways Department (RHD), to The Business Standard on Sunday.
Previously, Tk2,170.78 crore was allotted for upgrading the 59km regional highway from Tomchambridge in Comilla to Companiganj in Noakhali.
According to RHD sources, the Cumilla section of the Cumilla-Noakhali regional highway is 44km long. Of this, expansion work on the 42-kilometre stretch of the road has been completed in the five years since the project began in 2017.
However, 60% of all the construction work in the project is yet to be completed, despite the 42km expansion. Construction work has slowed down rapidly since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in the country.
"The project is being delayed due to the government's focus on the health sector due to the pandemic circumstances, and the complexities of land acquisition," said Reza-e-Rabbi, executive engineer, Cumilla RHD.
According to locals, the Cumilla-Noakhali highway became nearly unusable in 2014.
Before last year, people used to travel by rail and waterways instead of roads to avoid any hassle. The recent shutdown of train movement in the nationwide lockdown, has again put traffic pressure on the road.
Various parts of the road, especially Tomcham bridge, Jangalia, Bagmara Bazar, Harishchar, Alishwar, and Laksam bypass where work is underway, are experiencing severe traffic jams.
Many passengers in Noakhali and Lakhsmipur are using alternative roads despite increased fares.
"Passengers are travelling to Noakhali and Lakshmipur via Feni since the road is bad. This has reduced the number of passengers. No one wants to travel on this road unless absolutely necessary," said Professor Kabir Ahmed, director of Upakul Bus Service.
"The road is broken and cars break down there frequently. If the road is not repaired quickly, driving on it will be impossible," he added.
Apart from connecting Cumilla, Chandpur, Noakhali and Lakhsmipur districts, this road has high economic importance as well.
Cumilla Chamber of Commerce and Industry President, Masood Parvez Khan Imran said, "Completion of the four lane highway will make business expansion easier. Cumilla's economy will become stronger."
Construction work to turn the road into four lanes from Cumilla to Lalmai, is nearly complete. This has reduced travel time between Cumilla and Chandpur, and several upazilas of Cumilla, by about 30-45 minutes.
Completion of the road is also expected to cut down travel time between districts and reduce the number of accidents.
Moreover, the road will make transportation easier for residents of Bhola, Shariatpur, Madaripur, Barisal, and several other districts in the southwest of Bangladesh as well.