Bangladesh is to witness opening of its first smart highway on Dhaka-Mawa Expressway in December 2023 while the second one is expected to be commissioned in December next year, connecting Joydebpur with Rangpur, primarily aiming to ensure road safety, officials said Sunday.
Roads and Highways Department (RHD) officials said both the highways were being built introducing the 'Intelligent Transport System (ITS) which incorporates vehicle detection system, surveillance camera, automated number plate recognition camera, speed detection mechanism and variable messaging sign.
RHD’s superintending engineer M Tanvir Siddique said the 38-kilometre Dhaka-Mawa Expressway would be the first smart highway where the ITS would be fully installed in December this year as a pilot project.
Siddique, the project director of the Dhaka-Mawa Expressway, said the project is being implemented with South Korea’s KOICA assistance as part of a Tk 126 crore plan.
According to the RHD officials, works were underway to introduce the technology on the 250-kilometer Joydebpur-Rangpur highway in December 2024 with Asian Development Bank (ADB) assistance involving $15 million.
They said the government brought the technology to detect vehicles exceeding speed and weight limits as part of road safety measures and expose violators to appropriate actions and allow authorities to escalate highway surveillance keeping pace with developed countries.
The Joydebpur-Rangpur smart highway is part of a regional highway construction project under the auspices of South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) to be regarded as a SASEC corridor.
SASEC is grouping of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Bangladeshi infrastructure firm National Development Engineers (NDE) and Chinese firm Fiber Home Telecommunication Technologies Co Ltd are entrusted with the task of implementing Joydebpur-Rangpur smart highway while Bangladeshi IT firm National Tech was given the contract for the Dhaka-Mawa Expressway respectively under deals with RHD.
“We have placed the orders for the imported hardware and equipment and we hope to complete the work (on Joydebpur-Rangpur highway) by December 2024,” said Riyad SA Husain, managing director of NDE Infratech, an enterprise of the NDE.
He said a central Traffic Management Centre (TMC) would be set up at Paikpara in the city’s Mirpur area while the centre would have three regional TMCs at Pakulla in Tangail, Mokamtola in Bogura, and Islampur in Rangpur.
The centres would monitor the entire highway through the ITS system, Riyad said.
The official said the ITS would have a 'Vehicle Detective System (VDS)' to detect accidents and other obstacles for quick and appropriate actions.
Surveillance cameras along the highway would allow the TMC personnel to monitor the highway round the clock while Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Cameras will help them identify the vehicles violating the traffic rules or exceeding load and speed limits, he added.
“The technology will facilitate the authorities concerned to detect speed through the Speed Detection system . . . LED-enabled Variable Messaging Signs (VMS) will be installed on gantries along the highway, which will give vehicles advance messages regarding any danger or unusual things on the road,” Riyad said.
For example, he said, if there is any accident on the road or necessity to give direction for road diversion, all vehicles will be notified immediately through live messages on the variable messaging signs.
The official said a Weigh in Motion (WIM) system would be set up at various points on the highway to prevent trucks carrying loads beyond permission.
According to expert studies Bangladesh is one of the world’s most road accident-prone countries while overloaded trucks attributed to many of the road crashes.
“Installation of permanent axle load control stations regarded as the best solution for enforcement in this regard and the ITS provides the facility,” Riyad said.
The NDE Infratech official said, three Axle Load Control Centres will be set up at Pakulla in Tangail, Mahasthangarh in Bogura, and Islampur in Rangpur to monitor if any truck is carrying goods more than the prescribed limit.
“The trucks will be systematically bound to go through the axle load control stations. If any truck carries goods more than the permitted limit, the exit gateway of the station will not open,” Riyad said.
He added, “ITS is needed for all our highways to ensure road safety for our citizens . . . in case of accidents, action can be taken at a faster turnaround time through the system.”