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ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $235 million loan to further upgrade a National Highway in Pakistan that is crucial to regional connectivity and strengthen the government's operation and maintenance of its national highways network.

The project will expand the 222-kilometer Shikarpur-Rajanpur section of the National Highway 55 (N55) from two lanes into a four-lane carriageway.

The N55 is part of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation (CAREC) Corridor 5, which links the ports of Karachi and Gwadar in southern Pakistan with national and international economic centers to the north.

"This project will increase the capacity of a busy highway section that passes through populous economic centers in Sindh and Punjab provinces," said ADB Transport Specialist Rika Idei.

"The project addresses key road safety, climate resilience, and gender-specific needs to ensure users can travel safely, smoothly, and comfortably. This will facilitate the regional movement of goods and people, and support Pakistan's economic recovery from Covid-19."

The project will construct bus stops, emergency response centers, and traffic police facilities to ensure road safety enforcement and efficient post-crash response.

Bus stops and emergency response centers will have gender-separated facilities and rest spaces for various users, including the elderly, women, children, and persons with disabilities.

The project will also help strengthen the capacity of the National Highways Authority (NHA) by supporting a five-year training programme, which was prepared with assistance from the United States Agency for International Development.

The training programme will cover road project operation, maintenance, design, and gender concerns and will be implemented from 2021 to 2025.

The loan is the second tranche of a multi-tranche financing facility designed to provide technical and financial assistance to upgrade N55 and enhance the capacity of the NHA.

The first tranche of $180 million was approved in September 2017 and financed the improvement of three sections totaling 143 kilometers in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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