The Centre will take a decision on the proposed tunnel route in the Shiradi Ghat section of Mangalore-Bangalore highway in three months, according to Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Oscar Fernandes.
Mr. Fernandes told The Hindu on phone from New Delhi that the decision would be taken in consultation with the Karnataka government. “State Minister [for Public Works H.C.] Mahadevappa was here day before yesterday. He is very positive (about the project),” Mr. Fernandes said. The Minister, who reviewed the project with officials from the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) in New Delhi recently, said he had asked for a project report from his department officials in a month’s time.
Saving travel time
The tunnel is expected to reduce the distance between Sakleshpur and Gundia from the present 26 km to 18 km and provide a straight road in place of the road with multiple hairpin bends, thereby saving travel time for vehicle users. Karnataka and the Centre are expected to share the project cost of Rs. 3,000 crore besides raising debt.
The proposal is to provide five small tunnels of a total of 7.7 kms in length and high-pier bridges totalling 10 km in length.
The new tunnel-cum-bridge road is expected to ensure smooth and hassle-free movement of vehicles. At present the Ghat Road between Gundia and Sakleshpur is often damaged during rainy season. So much so that government buses are sometimes ordered to avoid this route, particularly during monsoon.
Though the Japan International Consultancy Agency has come forward to fund the project, the Ministry is understood to be keen to ensure cost recovery and hence insisted on sharing the cost with Karnataka government.
NHAI is also considering widening of the road but building tunnels is considered a better option than expanding the existing highway as it entailed acquisition of forest lands.
Mr. Fernandes, who met Minister for Urban Development Kamal Nath along with Mangalore-based All India Congress Committee Member P.V. Mohan, said Mr. Nath had expressed willingness to sanction up to Rs. 200 crore for infrastructure building in Mangalore.
If the Centre gets proposals from the Mangalore City Corporation through the State government, Mr. Nath has promised to sanction Rs. 100 crore. The Minister was willing to support further. “(Getting) upto Rs. 200 crore is not a difficulty,” Mr. Fernandes said.
Mr. Nath was also keen to sanction low floor buses if the proposal came, Mr. Fernandes added. Mr. Mohan said he would follow up and urge the State government to send the proposals at the earliest.