City's longest road may take off

City's longest road may take off

BDA, NICE set to sink differences

City's longest road may take off

After three long years, the Bangalore Development Authority (BDA) and the Nandi Infrastructure Corridor Enterprises (NICE) are finally set to end their wrangling over integrating the tolled 41-km NICE Peripheral Road with the proposed 65-km Peripheral Ring Road (PRR) Phase I.

The integration is vital to complete the third ring around the city and trigger a much-needed traffic decongestion.

The integration, expected to be approved shortly at a high-level committee meeting chaired by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, would also mean the proposed second phase of the PRR will be dropped. BDA had written to the State government indicating the unviability of Phase II, as it was in close proximity to the access-controlled NICE road.

The delayed decision-making has escalated the entire PRR cost to a whopping Rs 5,800 crore. The PRR first phase will take three years to complete.

The completed NICE-PRR road could effectively reduce the travel time from Electronic City to the Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) by half an hour, and vastly reduce the truck traffic on the clogged Outer Ring Road (ORR). Yet this integration plan -- which was ready as early as in October 2010 -- did not get the official stamp due to land-related differences between NICE and BDA.

But commuters using this third ring road around the City will have to pay two substantially different tolls: A higher toll for the NICE section and a potentially subsidised, lower toll for the PRR section comparable with the charges levied by the National Highway Authority of India.

BDA officials contended that the rates would be kept low. But NICE cited the high cost of construction to argue that the BDA will have to charge a toll either on par with the NICE road (Rs 3.8 per km for cars) or even higher.

Reason: The cost of construction, steel, cement and manpower has gone up manifold, and the BDA will not be able to repay the hefty Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) loan without generating revenue through the higher toll.

However, since the PRR project will be implemented on an Engineering Procurement Construction mode involving private contractors and not on a Public, Private Partnership system, sources said the pressure will be lesser.

Besides, the toll is likely to be subsidised to NHAI levels (Rs 0.80 to Re 1 per km for cars) and the State Government is expected to stand as a guarantor to ensure timely loan repayment.

In 2009, a high-level committee headed by the then Chief Minister, B S Yeddyurappa, and the ABIDe Task Force had recommended the PRR-NICE road integration. On October 20, 2010, it was agreed that NICE would bear the land acquisition cost, build the link roads and integrate them with PRR, all at their cost. The link roads were to be connected to the PRR toll booths at both the Hosur road and Tumkur road ends.

However, the agreement fell through when the BDA Board reportedly insisted that once the integration was completed, NICE had to hand over the link road and its control to the Authority, and not erect a toll plaza on this stretch. NICE agreed not to erect a plaza, but was not prepared to part with the developed road stretch. The stalemate continued for three years.

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