President Mahinda Rajapaksa Friday launched the construction of the Northern and Kandy Expressway, the longest highway in Sri Lanka, that will cover two thirds of land extent of the country.
President Rajapaksa commenced the construction work on the first phase of the Northern Expressway yesterday laying the foundation stone first from Galagedara area in Kandy and subsequently at Rambukkana and Galewela. He will lay the foundation stone in Kurunegala today.
The President declared open the memorial plaque to mark the construction of the section from Colombo to Kandy named as "Senkadagala Doratuwa" (Senkadagala Doorway).
The 300-kilometer long highway will be constructed under four stages and the first stage of the project from Enderamulla to Ambepussa is expected to cost US$ 1 billion and it would be completed with Chinese assistance.
The 52.8 km Enderamulla-Ambespussa stretch will have five interchanges, 50 overpasses and 30 underpasses.
The Outer Colombo Circular Road, constructed from Enderamulla will connect to the Northern Expressway to Dambulla covering the main towns of Meerigama, Pothuhera, Kurunegala, Melsiripura and Galewela, under the first phase.
The entry way to Kandy will also be constructed as a part of this phase. It will begin from Pothuhera and end at Gannoruwa.
The second phase of the project would see the extension of the expressway to Pallendeniya in Kurunegala. It will cover a distance of 39 km with three interchanges at Pothupitiya, Dampalassa and Pallendeniya. There will be 30 overpasses and five underpasses.
The third and final phases of the project will include the extension of the expressway from Pallendeniya to Dambulla and connecting to the A9 road to Jaffna from Dambulla.
When the Northern Expressway is constructed, Kandy - Colombo and Colombo - Dambulla travel will take only one and half hours, according to the Minister.
The four lane expressway will be built at a cost of approximately US$ 4.5 billion and is scheduled to be completed by 2018.
Hong Kong-based diversified conglomerate, China Merchants Holdings and its subsidiary China Merchants Huajian Highway Investment Company Limited will fully fund the first phase of the construction of the expressway to North.
The priority in the construction work will be given to Sri Lankan contractors while the planning of the highway is completely handled by local engineers.