White-topping 3.0: Bommai keen to do what BSY wouldn’t

White-topping 3.0: Bommai keen to do what Yediyurappa wouldn’t

CM holds talks on reviving Rs 1,154-crore project

Eighty-nine roads spanning 121.7 kilometres will get layers of concrete under Phase 3. Credit: DH File Photo/Ranju P

With Bengaluru’s road infrastructure crumbling, the state government appears keen on reviving the third phase of the white-topping project, which it had kept in cold storage in mid-2019. 

Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai is learnt to have held at least two rounds of discussions with senior officials on allocating special grants for the controversial project pegged at Rs 1,154 crore. 

Authorities had finalised the tenders for white-topping 121.70 kilometres spread over 89 roads under Phase III when H D Kumaraswamy was the chief minister. But one of the first things that B S Yediyurappa did after becoming chief minister in 2019 was to withdraw the grants earmarked for the project. He cited irregularities in the tender process and multiple delays in completing Phase I (94 km) and Phase II (63 km).

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After more than two years, the file — “missing” for quite some time — has reportedly come back to the chief minister’s office (CMO). It is, however, not clear whether Bommai, who also holds the Bengaluru development portfolio, will approve awarding the contracts to construction companies finalised previously or he directs the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to float fresh tenders. 

Bidders seek a premium

According to multiple sources, a potential stumbling block to approving the finalised tenders is the high premium quoted by the construction companies. The lowest bidders have quoted between 15 per cent and 19 per cent more than the cost estimated by the BBMP. 

JMC Projects, JSP Projects, BSCPL Infrastructure, Ramalingam Construction Company, RPN Infratech and RPP Infra Projects had emerged as the lowest bidders for white-topping six different sets of roads. Each set contains between eight and 19 roads. The companies have been waiting for the chief minister’s approval as the project is funded by the government. 

Talks of the white-topping project coincide with the preparation of an action plan for the city ahead of the 2021-22 state budget. Legislators have already started making a beeline for the CMO seeking grants for their constituencies. Bommai had promised to allocate Rs 6,000 crore for Bengaluru’s development in the next budget. 

Srinivas Alavilli of NGO Janaagraha suggests that the government first do a scientific study. “While white-topped roads are free from potholes, experts should be asked to review the project. More concrete means more heat, which could cause flooding. When most countries can have good asphalted roads, why not Bengaluru,” he said. 

Akhila Suri of research firm World Resources Institute (WRI) asked the government to include pedestrian infrastructure in every road development project. “An improved road surface tends to speed up vehicles, and pedestrians are the most vulnerable road users,” she said.

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