Dhenkanal: The expansion works of the National Highway (NH)-55 has been pushed to uncertainty as no one knows when it will get completed.
According to reports, the expansion work of NH-55, which is known as the lifeline of Cuttack, Dhenkanal, Angul and Sambalpur, has come to a standstill with construction work showing no signs of completion.
The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), which is implementing the project, is only buying time and extending the deadline of the project from time to time.
The project is showing no signs of completion and the half-constructed road has turned into a death trap for commuters.
It is alleged that people of these four districts, who are dependent on this highway, are suffering due to lack of coordination between the consultancy agency Gayatri Construction and NHAI.
The consultancy agency has been issued a show-cause notice for stopping the road work midway and inordinate delay in executing the expansion work, but it is yet to reply to the notice.
It is apprehended that if the agency withdraws from the project, the expansion work may get further delayed. Reports said that the expansion work of NH-55 was started four years back for seamless commuting between Central and Western Odisha.
A blueprint was prepared to start the expansion work from Manguli in Cuttack to Sambalpur. However, due to arbitrary implementation of the work, uncertainty now looms over the fourlaning of the road.
The highway has become an accident-prone region as the agency has dug up the road at various points. The incomplete road has also resulted in air pollution and a thick envelope of dust is always found covering the adjoining areas.
Recently, the state bus owners’ association observed a token strike protesting the bad shape of the highway and stopped plying their buses on the route, December 23.
Later, the state Commerce and Transport secretary convened an urgent meeting with the office bearers of the association and NHAI authorities.
It was decided that the repair work of the highway, which was undertaken from December 1, will be completed by January 22.
Rudra Narayan Tripathy, joint secretary of Dhenkanal Bus Owners’ Association, and Santosh Mishra, secretary of Angul Bus Owners’ Association, have warned that their organisations will intensify their agitation if the consultancy agency did not finish the repair work within the deadline.
Meanwhile, the NHAI has issued a notice to the agency to stop the expansion work. However, the agency is yet to reply to the notice.
It is apprehended that the agency may be forced to withdraw from the project if its reply is found unacceptable.
If this happens, the expansion work might get further delayed as the NHAI has to appoint a new agency by floating a fresh tender. This will only delay the expansion works by a year, joint secretary Tripathy said.