The government is developing a masterplan to turn all major highways into expressways under an umbrella network to enhance mobility, reliability and safety of traffic, and reduce transportation costs for sustained economic growth.
The concept of the masterplan, called National Expressway Programme, has already been drafted by the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) and discussed by officials concerned at the road transport and bridges ministry.
The expressways will have four or more lanes, including one for emergency, with limited exit and entry facilities. Most of those would be designed as toll roads where it is feasible, according to the RHD officials involved with the plan.
An expressway is a highway typically planned for high-speed traffic, usually having no or a fewer number of intersections, limited access and exit points, and a divider between lanes for traffic moving in opposite directions.
The implementation of the mega plan will require more than $70 billion over a period of 15-20 years, according to a rough estimate under the concept that suggested creating a separate wing under RHD to look after the expressway-related issues.
The move came at a time when Bangladesh opened its first expressway -- Dhaka-Mawa-Bhanga -- in March this year. Another expressway, Dhaka Bypass, which connects two national highways, is also under construction.
But, RHD officials said, there has to be a complete network to reap the highest economic benefit of these two expressways.
"We have developed a concept to bring major highways under an expressway network," Shishir Kanti Routh, an additional chief engineer of RHD, told The Daily Star recently.
He said the idea is to turn those expressways into economic corridors by connecting them with economic points like sea ports, land ports, inland container depots, for economic growth and meeting future demands.
"We need to have prioritisation, implementation and financing plans for this," he said, adding it would require a huge amount of investment from different sources apart from the government.
Shishir said the ministry already held a meeting with RHD officials last month. Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA) officials were also involved with the development of the masterplan.
He, however, said they were yet to finalise the total length of highways to be turned into expressway, their standard and financing among many issues.