Lahore: Carpeting of Multan Road from Samanabad Mor to Bastami Road near Bhalla Stop was started on Sunday, some three years after the strip was dug up to lay sewerage pipes as part of the rehabilitation and remodelling project of the 12.87 kilometres of the thoroughfare, causing doubts about the construction of a flyover at the intersection where traffic jams have become order of the day. Work on the project was started in the last week of September 2009, over two months after the Punjab chief minister laid the foundation stone of the project and despite the fact that it was declared technically viable some 39 months ago.
Delay in execution of the project has reportedly increased its cost seven times as initially the remodelling of the thoroughfare required over Rs1 billion but now it would take an estimated over Rs7 billion to finish. A decision to remodel 12.87-km strip of Multan Road, from Chauburji Chowk to Thokar Niaz Beg, was taken at a meeting presided over by then District Nazim Mian Amer Mahmood on July 31, 2007. The project was to be completed at an estimated cost of Rs1.468 billion within six months or so. But, by September 2007, only crushed stone was dumped on the western part of the thoroughfare from Hanjarwal main bazaar to Katar Bund Road Chowk.
Later, the Wasa started work on the first phase of the remodelling of Multan Road by digging up the Hanjarwal-Katar Bund Road strip of the thoroughfare for provision of sewerage and water supply systems on both sides of the carriageway. Road construction activities were to be undertaken after completion of Wasa work that was suspended for `unavoidable reasons. The project was declared technically viable by the district nazim at a meeting on Jan 17, 2008. Work on the project began but at a snail`s pace and continued only for a couple of weeks.
Reviewing the construction of Multan Road, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had on Dec 22, 2008, directed the officials concerned to make it a three-lane signal-free road while keeping in view the future needs. The Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) of the Lahore Development Authority had on May 27, 2009, started digging up Multan Road to lay big sewer pipes. Resumption of work on the thoroughfare had taken the users by surprise when they got stuck up in worst-ever traffic jams from Samanabad Mor to Yateem Khana Chowk in the afternoon.
Wasa completed its job within the stipulated deadline of June 30, 2009, and further work was suspended after carrying out patchwork as the Monsoon had begun. The chief minister laid the foundation stone of the project on Aug 9, 2009, and said that improvement and rehabilitation of Multan Road would be completed at an estimated cost of Rs7.04 billion within a year. He had announced that Multan Road would be widened from Thokar Niaz Beg to Chauburji Chowk. He said an underpass would also be constructed at Yateem Khana Chowk and a flyover at Samanabad Mor. He said the work on the project would be undertaken round-the-clock to minimise inconvenience it might cause to the people as well as to streamline the traffic flow.
But Multan Road traders, likely to be affected owing to widening of the thoroughfare, decided to oppose the project. Initially the traders remained peaceful and merely displayed banners against the widening plan but later they started blocking the road by taking out rallies and burning used tyres almost on a daily basis. The situation forced the authorities concerned to shelve the widening plan of the thoroughfare, especially from Yateem Khana Chowk to Chauburji, review it and make it a rehabilitation and reconstruction plan. Multan Road is an important artery, linking Karachi with Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Goods imported or exported to and from Punjab and KP are transported to Karachi through the road which is also used by commuters leaving or entering the city.[The Dawn]