ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Thursday approved a $235 million loan to further upgrade the 222-kilometre Shikarpur–Rajanpur section of the National Highway 55 (N55) from two lanes into a four-lane carriageway.
N55 is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor-5 which links the ports of Karachi and Gwadar with national and international economic centres in the north.
The project will involve the construction of bus stops, emergency response centres, and traffic police facilities to ensure road safety and efficient post-crash response. Bus stops and emergency response centres will have gender-separated facilities and rest spaces for various users, including the elderly, women, children, and persons with disabilities.
The loan is the second tranche of a multi-tranche financing facility designed to provide technical and financial assistance to upgrade N55 and enhance the capacity of the National Highway Authority (NHA). The first tranche of $180 million was approved in September 2017 and financed the improvement of three sections totalling 143 kilometres in Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK).
“This project will increase the capacity of a busy highway section that passes through populous economic centres in Sindh and Punjab,” said ADB Transport Specialist Rika Idei. “The project addresses key road safety issues, climate resilience and gender-specific needs to ensure that users can travel safely and comfortably. This will facilitate the regional movement of goods and people and support Pakistan’s economic recovery from COVID-19.”
The project will also help strengthen the capacity of the (NHA) by supporting a five-year training program which was prepared with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development. The training programme will cover road project operation, maintenance, design, and gender concerns and will be implemented from 2021 to 2025.
Pakistan is a member of the CAREC Programme, a partnership of 11 countries to promote economic growth and sustainable development through regional cooperation. CAREC is supported by development partners including ADB, which serves as the secretariat for the CAREC Programme.