Elevated highway project crosses last hurdle

P. Manoj

BANGALORE: The proposed 14-lane highway connecting Bangalore's famed Electronics City, where several multinational and Indian corporate offices are located, has crossed the last hurdle.

A joint venture of Soma Enterprises, Nagarjuna Construction Company and Maytas (a Satyam Computers group company) has clinched the bid from among seven entities to develop the nine-km highway from Hosur Road leading to Electronics City at an estimated cost of Rs. 450 crores on a build, operate and transfer (BOT) basis under the direct tolling method.

"The joint venture has offered to pay Rs. 16 crores as grant to the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) when the technical and financial bids were opened on July 6," a top official with the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways told The Hindu .

Travel time

Once operational, the new highway will ease traffic congestion and drastically cut travel time from Silk Board junction to Electronics City. "It takes 30 to 90 minutes to travel from Silk Board junction to Electronics City. The new highway will reduce travel time to six to 10 minutes on this stretch," the official said.

This is only the second instance where a private operator has agreed to pay a grant to the Government or the NHAI for developing a highway project instead of taking a grant from them after the highway sector is thrown open to private investments.

Earlier, D.S. Constructions had paid a grant of Rs. 67 crores (termed negative grant) to the Government/NHAI for building the Delhi-Gurgaon expressway project.

Under the highway policy of the Union Government, private operators are entitled to a capital subsidy or maximum grant (termed positive grant) of 25 per cent of the project cost and the bidder quoting the lowest grant from the NHAI/Government will be awarded the deal.

The Soma-Nagarjuna-Maytas combine will have to build the 14-lane highway within 30 months (including a six-month period for achieving financial closure) of signing the contract.

Apart from the four-lane elevated highway, there will be a main carriageway on the ground level which comprises three-lanes on either sides and a service road involving two-lanes on either sides, taking the number of lanes to 14.

The private operator will recover his investments by collecting toll from users for 15 years. The toll rates will be different for the elevated highway and the ground level carriageway where traffic levels are expected to touch 1,10,000 passenger car units (PCUs) a day.

"The highway project is likely to be awarded within three weeks. It can be cleared at the level of the NHAI without going to the full board," an official said.

The NHAI will develop the highway from Electronics City to Tamil Nadu border with an investment of over Rs. 100 crores, he added.

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