Top architect Surath Wickramasinghe yesterday urged the Government to merge the Colombo-Katunayake and Colombo-Kandy expressways into one, saying the country could not afford two luxury expressways.
His appeal came just days ahead of the agreement to be signed on Sunday between the governments of Sri Lanka and China for the building of the Colombo-Katunayake expressway. ?There is no dispute that the Colombo-Katunayake expressway (CKE) is essential for the development of Sri Lanka. The serious concern is regarding the selected road trace. Can Sri Lanka afford two luxury expressways,? asked Mr. Wickramasinghe who is also the President of the Chamber of Construction Industry.
He said the proposed CKE extended only up to Peliyagoda from Katunayake and this was a distance of 24 kilometres at an estimated cost of more than Rs. 25 billion.
Mr. Wickramasinghe said the proposed Colombo - Kandy expressway from Kadawatha via Minuwangoda to Kandy was a distance of 98 kilometres at an estimated cost of Rs. 30 billion and the distance between the CKE and the Kandy-Colombo expressway was between 10 and 15 Kms.
Mr. Wickramasinghe said the ideal scenario would be to amalgamate these two expressways into one and have the new expressway, over the existing railway lines.
He said to obtain the optimum benefit the expressway should begin from Colombo City with a link to the city and the Colombo port and extending up to Katunayake Airport and thereafter the same expressway to continue to Kandy and thereafter to the North and East.
Mr. Wickramasinghe said this concept was the easiest, fastest and the most economical and environmentally friendly solution with minimum land acquisition since the existing railway lines already have a 66-foot. reservation for the expansion of the railways.
He said since the Chinese Government has already allocated funds for the Colombo-Katunayake expressway, this money could be best utilized in the above manner and this concept could be given consideration by the two governments of Sri Lanka and China.
?The Road Development Authority`s claim that the land acquisition and sandfill for the pro- posed CKE has already cost the Government Rs.4.5 billion could be recovered by the sale of the sand or both,? he opined.
Mr. Wickramasinghe said in India, several major cities like Delhi and Bangalore were presently designing elevated expressways to reach the airport and Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong and several other major cities the elevated expressways already existed and were extensively used for optimal utilization of travel.
?Why not in Sri Lanka?? he askedMr. Wickramasinghe said from an Urban Design point of view the elevated expressway as proposed will be of enormous value since it would be possible to integrate road and rail transportation, commercial development, and container yards at the terminals similar to the practice in other developed countries and this way several intersections proposed presently at a huge cost could be avoided.
He asked why the Sri Lanka Government was proceeding with this unrealistic Colombo (Peliyagoda) - Katunayake expressway when officials, academics, professionals and even multi-lateral funding agencies had been critical of this 24-kilometre expressway which was identified as the most expensive highway in the world.
?Furthermore, a four-billion-rupee express railway between Katunayake and Ratmalana is in the pipeline and how can the government justify this huge cost of Rs. 55 billion for the new expressways, or at least recover part of the cost within a reasonable time frame,? Mr. Wickramasinghe asked.