Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel, country's first multi-lane expressway under the Karnaphuli River, is set to open to traffic early next year as the completion of the infrastructure work of the tunnel's south tube has taken the project's progress to 94%.
The completion of the south tube will be celebrated at the tunnel's Patenga end today in an event, where Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to join virtually.
"Other than the tunnel boring, the construction of the cross passage between the two tunnels was the most complex and risky, which we have successfully completed," Project Director Harunur Rashid told The Business Standard.
Of the 94% completion of the project, 2,446 metres of the north tube, 2,458 metres of the south tube boring work, lanes within the tube, three cross passages (connecting road), viaduct and pavement of both tubes have been completed, elaborated the project director.
"Only electromechanical works are to be done in the south tunnel while the PC endurance sheet installation at the east and west side are in progress. A temporary 2MG electricity connection has been provided at both ends and a 15 MW substation has been set up for the tunnel's operation," he said.
Harunur Rashid added that the contractors are working with the view to complete the remaining tasks by December.
He pointed out that all systems including power and communication will be integrated with the central system followed by verifying the effective functioning of all systems to eliminate any security concerns, before the tunnel will be open for traffic movement.
Prime Minister's Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, who visited the celebration venue yesterday, said, "About security concerns, we will say that we have taken all measures necessary."
Although approved in 2015, the construction of the project started in December 2017 and by that time the authorities revised the expenditure to Tk10,374 crore, increasing it by Tk1,927 crore with a deadline of December 2022.
Of the total cost, the Bangladesh government is providing Tk4,461.23 crore and the Exim Bank of China is providing the remaining Tk5,913.19 crore as a loan with a 2% interest rate under a G2G agreement with China.
"The government was trying to open at least one tube of the Bangabandhu Tunnel for traffic by November," a project official told The Business Standard on condition of anonymity.
"Since many works including cable connection in the tunnel, installation of fire extinguishers, lighting and electromechanical wiring are still going on, the tentative inauguration has been pushed back, for which a second revision has been sought," said the official.
"It has already been passed by the Project Evaluation Committee and will be placed at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) meeting next month," added the official, hoping that the tunnel will be opened on the next Independence Day.
Urban planning engineer Subhash Barua said, "A tunnel is a more sensitive structure than a road or a bridge. Therefore, proper traffic management should be developed alongside the construction of the main tunnel before opening it."
He recommended that a new road should be built to get the maximum benefit of the tunnel.
Project Director Harunur Rashid said that traffic will move from Anwara to Chattogram city through the south tube and from Chattogram Naval Academy towards Anwara through the north tube.
On 24 February 2019, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the boring work of the first tunnel tube while the Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader inaugurated the work of the second tube on 12 December.
The government took the tunnel project to connect the two banks of Karnaphuli to build "one city two town" on the model of China's Shanghai.
The length of the main tunnel is 3.32km. Each of the 2.45km tubes has a 10.80-metre diameter and will have two lanes. There will be 5.35km of connecting roads at the two ends of the tunnel. There will also be a 727-metre-long overbridge.