Kathmandu — The Board of Directors of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan of $180 million to support improvements to Nepal’s East–West Highway, the country’s main domestic and international trade route also known as the Mahendra Highway.
“The highway’s road surface—Nepal’s busiest route—is in fair to poor condition and does not segregate oncoming traffic or slow-moving vehicles and pedestrians,” said ADB Transport Specialist Mr. Johan Georget. “Improving the road will boost the efficiency of Nepal’s transport system, strengthen national and regional connectivity to promote growth and trade, and improve road safety.”
Nepal’s road network, which includes eight north–south and three east–west corridors, carries more than 90% of passengers and goods in the country. The project road carries an average of 8,600 vehicles daily, with more than a quarter of them heavy vehicles. This average is forecast to grow to 25,400 vehicles a day by 2033.
The project will improve and rehabilitate about 87 kilometers (km) between Kanchanpur and Kamala on the East–West Highway, and will upgrade the highway section to a four-lane dual carriageway to cater to the projected increase of traffic demand, including a new road surface and drainage. Road safety will be significantly improved, as a center median will reduce head-on collisions, while service lanes in populated areas will reduce rear-end, sideswape, and side-on collisions, particularly for pedestrians, motorcycles, and cyclists.
The project will also finance civil works and equipment packages to improve road safety along the entire 1,027 km of the East–West Highway, and support road safety campaigns. The loan will also finance preparation of detailed designs for future road projects along the corridor. Accompanying the loan is an ADB technical assistance grant of $750,000 to help prepare a national road safety policy and action plan, strengthen the road safety council, carry out a road safety assessment of the corridor, identify the location of potential service areas, and promote gender equality measures in the transport sector.
Contractors are currently invited to purchase bidding documents and submit their proposals, and construction is expected to start in the first quarter of 2019. Civil works contracts will include a performance-based maintenance period of 5 years after completion of construction, which is due to finish in 2022.
The total project cost is $256.4 million, of which the government will $76.4 million.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2017, ADB operations totaled $32.2 billion, including $11.9 billion in cofinancing.