The ministry of road transport and highways, which had initially raised questions about the rationale for creating yet another agency like the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), has now decided to examine setting up of a separate expressway authority.
The ministry would move a note on the proposal soon for the approval of the cabinet, two persons aware of the development told FE.
The need for an Expressway Authority of India has been felt for a long time, but the government has so far refrained from dividing the work of NHAI under strong opposition from the authority. But with NHAI burdened with the work of constructing roads and highways across the country and not finding time to get into specialised expressway construction in a big way, the government is moving ahead with proposal on a new authority.
It is expected that the expressway authority would be formed on the lines of NHAI, but would largely play the regulatory role and evolve guidelines for the access-controlled road networks. With several state governments also proposing expressways, the new authority could play the role of advisors guiding such constructions. It would also award expressway projects ad conduct independent audits on such constructions.
?The new authority could have officials from NHAI as well as experts from outside. It will also coordinate the road construction work so that highways and expressway do not become parallel competing networks,? said a government official privy to development.
The Planning Commission is already working on an MCA for expressway and is likely to revive the plan to construct 18,000 km of expressways over next few years. The proposal on the Express Authority of India was almost shelved after discussions with the Planning Commission. The proposal to have a separate authority was delineated in the 11th Plan doccument. The document had also said that the country needs 18,000 km of expressways to ease traffic congestion across India, which would need around R4,50,000 crore of investment.
The ministry of roads had raised reservations on this issue when the idea was proposed in 11th Plan. At that time, the ministry had cited that it would not just lead to duplicity of organisations when NHAI already exists, but also having a proper staff would be a great challenge, given that NHAI is already short of staff.
It was during the 11th Plan period and again the 12th Plan period when NHAI had mandated to initially create 1,000 km of expressways. This included 450-km expressway between Vadodara and Mumbai and Delhi Jaipur expressway under the National Highway Development Programme (NHDP) Phase VI.
However the actual construction on the 18,000 km of expressways is likely to begin around the 12th Plan period. Planning, detailed project reports, identification of stretches to be covered and preliminary works are also under progress.
The NHAI is looking at feasibility of expressways between high traffic density sections like Delhi-Agra, Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Jaipur, Delhi-Meerut, Chennai-Bangalore and Kolkata-Dhanbad, besides the Vadodara-Mumbai section.
Joshi said the need for the expressways to both the state capitals was felt in view of increasing traffic. The current highways ? Delhi-Jaipur stretch on NH8 and Delhi-Chandigarh stretch on NH1 ? witness heavy traffic. The transport ministry, in December 2008, had hired a consultant for formulating the master plan for the national expressway network in a phased manner, which was accepted by the government. However, the plan was later shelved with the government saying it was facing problems in land acquisition and the issue was being re-examined.