New Delhi: Ahead of the 2019 general elections, the Narendra Modi-led government is all set to roll out nearly 300 National Highway projects in the country. These projects will add 12,000 km of road length to the existing network of National Highways.

Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari recently held a two-day meeting to review 700 ongoing National Highway projects, out of which over 300 projects were identified to be completed by 2019. Transport Ministry officials said this would be the highest ever construction in one financial year. As of now, 5,759 km of highways have been constructed this year. Officials said that at present, road projects of around 61,300 km length are in progress, at a cost of Rs 6.5 lakh crore.

Sources in the Ministry said that the Modi government was going to project infrastructure projects as its biggest achievements in the upcoming elections. Several big ticket road projects have already been put on the fast track so as to showcase them ahead of the elections. These projects include the ambitious Bharatmala and several other road projects that are crucial for border security and for strategic reasons. The ministry is also undertaking 12,000 km of road projects in the Northeast at a cost of Rs 1.9 lakh crore.

A senior Transport Ministry official said that work had already begun on Phase-I of the Bharatmala Pariyojana, which envisages 34,800 km of National Highway by 2021-22. The government will spend Rs 5.35 lakh crore on the project. This includes 5,000 km of national corridors, 9,000 km of economic corridors, 6,000 km of feeder and inter-corridors, 2,000 km of border roads, 2,000 km of coastal roads and port connectivity roads and 800 km of green-field expressways. Till October 2018, the Ministry has awarded contracts for 6,407 km road projects under the Bharatmala Pariyojana. Detailed Project Reports (DPRs) are being prepared for these.

Similarly, the government is undertaking the Chardham Mahamarg Vikas Pariyojana on a war footing. The project envisages the development of 889 km of all-weather roads to four prominent pilgrimage sites—Gangotri, Yamunotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath—in the state of Uttarakhand. The project being constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 12,000 crore, is targeted for completion by March 2020. However, the government may commission certain sections of the Chardham road project before the 2019 elections.

In Delhi, the two projects of Peripheral Expressways, comprising the 135 km Eastern Peripheral Expressway (EPE), and 135 km Western Peripheral Expressway (WPE), connecting NH-1 and NH-2 from the western and eastern sides of Delhi, have already been completed. The project aims at decongesting the national capital and de-polluting the city by diverting traffic not destined for Delhi through these expressways.

Further, work is progressing swiftly on the Delhi-Meerut Expressway that aims to provide a faster connectivity between Delhi and Meerut and beyond this, with Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. The 8.36 km stretch of the project from Nizamuddin Bridge to Delhi-UP border was inaugurated by Prime Minister Modi in May last year.

Package II from UP border to Dasna (19.28 km), Package III—Dasna to Hapur (22.27) km—and Package IV—Green-field Alignment from Dasna to Meerut (31.78 km)—are under construction and are likely to be completed by March 2019.

Transport Ministry officials said a number of expressways connecting Delhi to major cities are also in various stages of execution. This includes the 1,250 km long Delhi-Mumbai Expressway which passes through the backward and tribal districts of Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. A sum of Rs 1 lakh crore will be spent on this expressway. It will reduce the distance between Delhi and Mumbai from the present 1,450 km through NH8 to 1,250 km, and the travel time to 12 hours. Greenfield alignment is being explored for the 500 km long proposed Expressway connecting Delhi with Amritsar and Katra.

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