Decides to hand over Coimbatore-Mettupalayam road project to State Highways

In what could be its first salvo at the State government, the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) on Tuesday withdrew from a project to extend National Highway-67 in Coimbatore district between Kangeyampalayam to Mettupalayam. A top NHAI official described it as the first step towards the national agency withdrawing from Tamil Nadu.

This decision could have a bearing on major projects in Tamil Nadu, where the NHAI alleges it is encountering a series of hurdles from the State government. Especially at stake is the Chennai Port-Maduravoyal elevated corridor project. The NHAI has approached the Madras High Court for help in early execution of the Rs. 1,800-crore project.

The NHAI has withdrawn from the project to four-lane the Coimbatore-Mettupalayam road in the State. It has written to the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways that this stretch of NH-67 be handed over to the State Highways for widening and maintenance.

“This is the first step towards the NHAI withdrawing from the State. The State government had asked for too many changes in the proposal including shifting of toll plaza. But we could not accede to their demands,” NHAI Chief General Manager (technical) I.G. Reddy told The Hindu. The letter of acceptance for the project was issued in July 2012, but the concession agreement was not signed as land was not available. The State government had made two requests for shifting of the toll plaza, but NHAI objected the second time as many structures would have to be demolished. The State government also withdrew its consent for the alignment.

According to Project Director of NHAI in Coimbatore Ganesh Kumar Saride, the Rs. 617-crore NH 67 (National Highways) extension project was mooted in 2006. It was proposed as a four-lane project from Coimbatore to Mettupalayam. Later, the NHAI decided to begin the extension from Kangeyampalayam, near Sulur. The alignment was for a greenfield project over a total stretch of 53.93 km till Mettupalayam. The proposal was to have a toll plaza at Narasimhanaikenpalayam. The project included four bypass roads, three road overbridges and one major bridge across the Noyyal. The land to be acquired was 875 acres. But no land has been acquired yet. Now, the Letter of Award for the project, issued in 2012, has been withdrawn.

Farmers’ associations and several residents on the proposed stretch have been opposing the project. They had sought a modified alignment for the project as the land acquisition for the project would have taken away many farms lands and displaced residents.

K. Kathirmathiyon, secretary of Coimbatore Consumer Cause, told The Hindu on Tuesday that the main objection to the project was against collection of toll on the existing Mettupalayam Road. Handing over the stretch to the State government was a welcome move and the Chief Minister should give special attention to widening of the Mettupalayam road and developing a bypass road for Mettupalayam.

National Highway projects worth over Rs. 9,300 crore running to a length of 1,037 km across the State have been delayed due to various reasons, including slow pace of land acquisition.

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