The Nitin Gadkari-led ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) will soon seek Cabinet approval for its hugely-ambitious Bharatmala project, under which 24,800 km of highways would be built in the first phase, entailing an investment of Rs 5.5 lakh crore. MoRTH sources said that the Bharatmala project is designed to be an umbrella programme, under which all existing and envisaged highway and expressway projects would be brought. It will also subsume the National Highways Development Project (NHDP). Though the total size of the Bharatmala programme is yet to be firmed up, sources said it could be to the tune of Rs 10 lakh crore, the largest-ever envisaged outlay for highway construction.
The project is being envisaged to improve highway connectivity to coastal, border areas, backward areas, religious places, tourist areas, construction and widening of about 1,500 major bridges and 200 railway over- and under-bridges on national highways. The tender has already been issued for preparation of detailed project report for those bridges. The proposed economic corridor project that aims to improve 21,000 km of highways and 14,000 km of feeder routes would also come under the Bharatmala fold, sources said.