THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The public works department's (PWD) agenda is to start the much-delayed widening of the 610-km National Highway 66 into four and six lanes by September this year. Chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had called a high-level meeting of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and NH PWD officials recently. Nodal officer K. Biju and the district collectors had also attended it. The entire NH-66 development right from Kasaragod to Thiruvananthapuram (Thalappady – Chengala – Kazhakootam – Mukkola – Karode) would require Rs 26,000 crore which will be borne by the NHAI, and it includes the land acquisition costs.
The norm of the Union government is that any development work that requires more than Rs 1000 crore has to get the sanction of Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). However, it has now increased the amount that the ministry of road transport and highways (MoRTH) can sanction to Rs 2000 crore.
Hence, to avoid delay, Union minister Nitin Gadkari has asked the NHAI officials to break the 610-km highway into various stretches. PWD principal secretary Kamala Vardhana Rao said 70 percent of the NH development would be started by September.
“We are holding weekly meetings to take stock of the progress," he told DC. "Once the NHAI chairman issues the 3A notification (power to acquire land), within two months the tender would be awarded. By then, NHAI would take possession of the land.” The highway linking the north-south tips of the state through nine districts needs 1,329 hectares to be acquired for expansion. While the work on the Thalassery – Mahe bypass has already started the much delayed Kozhikode bypass is expected to begin this month. The state government hopes to open the Alappuzha bypass by June and Kollam bypass by September.