Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Friday laid the foundation stone of the Ganga Expressway here, paving the way for the much-awaited road project. He said it will prove a turning point for the economic development of the state.

Approved by the state government in August 2012, the first phase of Ganga Expressway will have a 21-km-long road built connecting Digha Ghat and Didarganj. The second phase of the project will stretch 18 km farther to Fatuha.

A road construction department official said the Bihar State Road Construction Corporation will execute and monitor the project.

A Visakhapatnam-based firm Navayuga Engineering Company will construct the expressway at an estimated cost of Rs. 2,234.46 crore (Rs.22.34 billion). It is expected to open to traffic in 2017.

“It is being constructed under the engineering procurement construction (EPC) mode. The government provides the funds and the agency, which takes up the work, is paid according to the construction carried out by it,” an official said.

The Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) has given a loan of Rs.2,000 crore (Rs.20 billion) to the Bihar government for constructing the expressway, an official said.

Last year, the state government failed to attract private investors for the project on a public-private-partnership.

Early this year, it decided to give the project to a government agency. After that the government also cleared the decks to acquire over 200 hectares of land for the project, the official said.

“It is going to be a matter of great pride for Bihar. We are happy that the dream has finally come true,” Pratyay Amrit, road construction department secretary said.