ISLAMABAD: Solid work on the proposed Rawalpindi bypass, previously Ring Road, has been started to launch its construction during the current year if all goes well as per the envisioned plan.
“We have sent the proposal to the Planning and Development Department of Punjab for approval,” Rawalpindi Commissioner Azmat Mehmood, who is also Director General of the Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA), told The News. “We will receive the approval shortly.”
After that, he said, a consultant would be hired for the project. He was confident that the project, which replaced the now abandoned Ring Road, would see the physical work kicking very soon. He is pushing the project so that construction work begins without any delay.
Azmat Mehmood said that it would be a public-private partnership project and noted firms would be shortlisted for the final bidding. A private company would make the investment that it would get back through collection of toll on the bypass over a certain period of time.
It is expected to be among the longest bypasses of Pakistan and is likely to be thirty-five kilometers plus. It will start from Rawat and connect with the Pakistan Motorway. While the discarded Ring Road was estimated to cost whopping Rs70 billion plus, the bypass is expected to be less than half this sum.
The Ring Road project was being mentioned in the official files since 1991, but it never figured in the priority list of the successive governments, maybe for want of funds or political will.
The basic purpose of the bypass is to provide a smooth, straight route to the heavy vehicular traffic that now goes through Islamabad, clogging the IJ Principal Road, which always presents a chaotic muddle. It is a nightmare for commuters to use this road.
The bypass, if built, will be received as a sigh of relief by thousands of residents of Islamabad and Rawalpindi, who are condemned to use the IJ Principal Road for having no other shorter route to reach their destinations.
Presently, the heavy traffic comprising loaded long vehicles, trucks and bowsers go on the Islamabad Highway from Faizabad bridge, jamming the traffic on this most busy road that also bears the brunt of vehicles coming from and going to the Islamabad airport.
Although the Islamabad Highway has been widened, travel on it is still very difficult during all times of the day. Previously, the heavy traffic used to use the Kashmir Highway of Islamabad to go on the Islamabad Highway later.
However, for security reasons it was diverted to the IJ Principal Road from Peshawar Road to remain away from Islamabad. Earlier, it had been proposed that some economic zones would be set up on the Ring Road. It was supposed to cover all the peripheries of Islamabad and Rawalpindi.
It is stated that in 2008, the RDA completed the feasibility study of the Ring Road and prepared the PC-1 worth Rs74b on the private-public partnership basis. It was subsequently floated in China and Turkey to attract foreign firms. However, the RDA failed to get any response from the foreign investors. It was envisaged that the Punjab government would provide funds for acquisition of land and private firms would finance the project and develop economic zones along the road.
Ironically, despite their immense importance for different reasons Islamabad and Rawalpindi are the only cities that have no bypass while such facilities were constructed long time ago in major towns including Jhelum, Gujrat, Wazirabad and Gujranwala along the Grant Trunk Road.