Economy
 
Billions wasted on faulty road projects
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February 04, 2011
If one estimates, the over all expenditure on these aforementioned road projects was in billions of rupees, but they still need billions more in the name of redesigning and extension. If CDA had spent this amount on developing new residential sectors, most of the sectors would have become ready for living by now, thus greatly reducing the housing units shortfall in the federal capital.
During the last half a decade, the Federal Capital Islamabad witnessed phenomenal developmental projects. Billions of rupees were spent on various uplift schemes, especially on development of road infrastructure. Interestingly, most of mega project were initiated by the former Chairman of Capital Development Authority, (CDA) Kamran Lashari, once considered an originator of modern Islamabad, but today witnessing the worst ever phase of his career. Before departing CDA, Lashari inaugurated most of the projects, but his successors are still inaugurating some of the remaining projects that he designed and sanctioned.

During Lashari’s period, most prominent mega projects include 7th Avenue, 9th Avenue, Jinnah-Faisal Avenue Interchange, Shaheed-e-Millat underpass and Islamabad Expressway and, last, but not least, Zeropoint Interchange were initiated. But it is an irony that the city managers at that time did not foresee the actual and future requirements, and the projects were initiated in a hasty manner and without any proper planning. As a result, additional billions of taxpayers’ money was spent in order to rectify flaws of projects’ designs.

Seventh Avenue that started from Khayaban-e-Iqbal near Islamabad Zoo and ends at Kashmir Highway was one of the mega projects of CDA. The four-kilometer Avenue was completed with a cost of 70 million. On completion of the avenue, CDA also spent millions of rupees on overhead bridges for pedestrians.

Though, 7th Avenue provides a quick ride from Khayaban-e-Iqbal to Khayaban-e-Suharwardi, all the tempo of signal-free driving would break by long wait at traffic signals installed at Khayan-e-Suharwardi and Kashmir Highway.

Similarly, 9th avenue, another mega development of the city, tells a story that is not so different. 9th Avenue, also known as Agha Shahi Avenue, is eight kilometer long, and runs from Khayaban-e-Iqbal to IJ Principal Road. It was built at a cost of Rs.1,686.373 million.

Soon after 9th avenue was opened for traffic, the commuters witnessed worst ever traffic jam at Kashmir Highway and IJ Principal Road interjections. CDA then had to spend millions of rupees for smooth flow of traffic. However, the flow of traffic on 9th avenue is still not as smooth as it was projected earlier.

The CDA termed Islamabad Expressway another landmark in its developmental projects; it is in fact third major road project after 7th and 9th avenues. The project was completed with a cost of around Rs.900 million.

Like 7th and 9th avenue, this project also had severe flaws. Soon after the road was opened for traffic, the residents of Iqbal Town, Kurri Road, Sohan and other adjacent area demanded overhead bridges for pedestrians after several fatal accidents.

While responding to the concerns of the local residents, CDA installed four overhead bridges at different places. During that period, CDA sought help of Islamabad Capital Territory Police to facilitate the pedestrians in crossing the road.

However, there is still a bottle neck on the road at the Koral Chowk where traffic either turns towards the Islamabad Airport or to goes straight towards the G.T. Road.

Jinnah-Faisal Avenue Interchange is a combination of flyovers, underpasses and roads. The interchange was opened in March 2009. It was built on Faisal Avenue at the point where it bisects the Jinnah Avenue. The road runs from Zero Point up to the Faisal Mosque and is among the busiest ones in town.

When the project was in progress, the then CDA chairman, Tariq Mehmood Khan, declared it as one of the bad projects. And later it was proved so, as for many months after it was opened, construction of loop towards Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences was lying pending.

Ironically, the interchange was built to make Jinnah Avenue and Faisal Avenue signal free, but, ultimately, due to the designing flaw, the CDA had no option than to install traffic signals to avoid traffic mess at this point.

Shaheed-e-Millat underpass is another example where CDA remained confused when it was opened for traffic. Initially, besides closure of loops, signals were also installed. But now the loops are open, while signals work from time to time. This underpass is also subject to road accident due to its flawed design.

The near-completion Zero Point Interchange is a cluster of flyovers and roads. This Rs4 billion project, too, had flaws, but thank God, they were discovered at early stages, and the CDA is in the process to revise its PC-1 to correct these flaws.

Mumtaz Hussain, Project Director ZPI, said in the revised PC-1, besides extension of more lanes from 7th avenue to 9th avenue, an additional bridge that connects the G-7 service road to the G-8 service road, has been proposed.

As far as the flaws in other projects are concerned, Azam Khan Lodhi, CDA Director Traffic Engineering & Transportation Planning, said CDA was fully aware of the traffic problems on the newly-developed roads.

He said for 7th avenue, an interchange had already proposed, while for 9th Avenue, an interchange is proposed to be built on Kashmir Highway with a cost of over Rs. 3.2 billion. Another interchange had been proposed at IJ Principal Road with a cost of over Rs.2 billion.

He said that the existing 9th Avenue would cater for the traffic for another three years. “For Islamabad Expressway, we had proposed a bridge at Koral Chowk so we can have an uninterrupted flow of traffic,” he said.

As far as Jinnah-Faisal Avenue Interchange is concerned, he ruled out any flaw in its design, saying traffic signals were part of this project. He, however, said that according to design and plan, the signals were required after three years of its opening, but when we realized that there was no other way out, we installed the signals for public convenience.

Interestingly, Mustafain Kazmi, when he was Member Admin CDA, vigorously criticized these projects and declared them a waste of valuable money. In his view, CDA, instead of developing road projects, should invest in water reservoirs, and civic development facilities including the already announced and future housing units.

If one estimates, the over all expenditure on these aforementioned road projects was in billions of rupees, but they still need billions more in the name of redesigning and extension. If CDA had spent this amount on developing new residential sectors, most of the sectors would have become ready for living by now, thus greatly reducing the housing units shortfall in the federal capital.



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