Darjeeling, April 12: A drive to Sikkim is all set to become a breeze along a faster highway with a few new tunnels and bridges on the way.
The only road link between Sikkim and the rest of country is set to be converted into a two-lane highway with the Centre deciding to invest around Rs 900 crore in the next two years.
The stretch between Sevoke and Gangtok along NH 31A, covering an approximate distance of 90 kilometres, has been included under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for North East region. One-third of the stretch falls within Bengal.
The project is being executed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) and tenders are expected to be floated within the next four to five months. “A detailed project report (DRP) is in its final stage of being prepared,” R.P. Singh, project director, NHAI, told The Telegraph over phone from Siliguri. The project has been allotted under the Phase I of the accelerated road development programme, which is expected to get over by 2009.
Though the report has not been finalised, the two-lane highway will have “paved shoulders” for cyclists and pedestrians. At least three tunnels are expected to be dug along the winding route and a numbner of bridges built. “Efforts will be made to ensure that the highway does not have any sharp bend,” Singh said. The new road is also expected to cut down on the distance a little.
The NH 31A, which is approximately between 3 and 3.5 metres wide, will be broadened by seven metres. Additional room for pedestrians will be thrown open, which is expected to increase the total breadth of the road to somewhere between 11 and 12 metres. The lane is expected to make the highway safer for pedestrians.
The accelerated road development programme has been formulated for the repair and renovation of not only national highways, but also state roads and other routes of strategic importance.