Govt, ADB ink deal for upgrading int'l road corridor
The government signed agreements with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for US$300 million in loans to help upgrade the Dhaka-Northwest international trade corridor in Bangladesh.

Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Kazi Shofiqul Azam and ADB Country Director Manmohan Parkash signed the loan agreements on behalf of their respective sides at a function in the city on Wednesday.

The assistance forms the first tranche of $1.2 billion multi-tranche ADB loans for the Second SASEC Northwest Corridor Road Project.

Manmohan Parkash said "This project will help boost trade along the second busiest road artery in the country, and further strengthen regional connectivity."

"This will also help bring down transport costs, make the sector more competitive, and make transportation between Dhaka and north-western Bangladesh more efficient," he added.

ADB has been supporting the government in improving the Dhaka-Northwest road corridor since approval of the landmark Jamuna Bridge Project in 1994.

The first SASEC Northwest Corridor Road Project was approved in 2012 to improve 70-kilometer Joydeypur-Elenga section of the road. It also improved operational efficiency of Burimari and Benapole land ports that provide gateways to Bhutan and India, respectively.

The second project continues ADB's support to the corridor by improving the 190-km section from Elenga through Hatikurul to Rangpur. Road operation and management in the Roads and Highway Department will also be strengthened.

There will be further work on issues such as road safety and gender responsive features to make the highway user friendly to women.

Studies have shown that women particularly use the route on foot or slow-moving vehicles such as rickshaws. So the project will include footbridges, footpaths, and dedicated lanes for slow moving traffic to make their travel safer.

Transport infrastructure is the centerpiece of the ADB-supported South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) program, which promotes regional prosperity.

Since 2001, SASEC members have invested more than $9.17 billion in projects with a regional dimension, including 31 transport projects worth $7.3 billion. Road travel accounts for 70 percent of all passenger traffic and 60 percent of freight in Bangladesh, where traffic has been growing at a rate of 8 percent a year.

Accompanying the assistance package is an ADB technical assistance (TA) grant of $2 million to support the government in updating its Road Master Plan, and enhancing planning and monitoring activities associated with roads. The TA is to be carried out from January 2018 to December 2023.