Work on foot overbridges, service road yet to be over though opening is on October 13.
The commissioning of the 26.7-km Reach I of the Kazhakuttam-Mukkola corridor of the 43-km National Highway 66 Bypass from Kazhakuttam to Karode on the Kerala-Tamil Nadu border is taking place four decades after it was conceived.
The National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) that executed the four-laning on Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) mode, overcoming several hurdles, including opposition from the local people, saw the cost going up from ₹778.41 crore sanctioned for the construction and ancillary works in 2015 to ₹1,120.86 crore in 2020.
The 24-month EPC contract given to the Hyderabad-based KNR Constructions Ltd. (KNRCL) for Reach I was over in November 2017.
The 43-km bypass is part of the 212-km NH 66 bypass project of the NHAI from Thuravur, the work on which started in 1974. The 22-km first phase from Kazhakuttam to Kovalam was made two-lane 20 years ago. Land for a four-lane carriageway was acquired up to Kovalam Junction when the bypass was conceived.
But, the lanes on either side of the bypass have been encroached upon at many places. Removal of illegal buildings, felling of trees, shifting of utilities, demand for underpasses, and opposition from the local people were the challenges faced by the NHAI.
The construction of the 1.6-km four-lane flyover in front of Thiruvananthapuram airport’s international terminal at a cost of ₹142 crore for hassle-free connectivity to the airport after the EPC contract was awarded dragged the work on the 3.5-km Chakka-Eenchakkal-Muttathara stretch.
A two-lane bridge parallel to the existing one at Akkulam and the rail overbridge at Chakka across the Thiruvananthapuram-Kollam railway line were part of the bypass project.
When the Reach I is being commissioned on October 13, the foot overbridges at Guru Nagar after Infosys and Vazhamuttom are yet to be installed and a service road at Guru Nagar is yet to be completed owing to opposition.
Besides de-congesting the city that still lacks a mass rapid transit system, the Reach I of the NH 66 Bypass has further boosted the prospects of Technopark, the Thiruvananthapuram international airport, Veli and Akkulam tourism villages, Kovalam-Poovar tourism corridor, and the forthcoming Vizhinjam International Deepwater Multipurpose seaport.
The toll plaza of Reach I is to be set up by the NHAI between Thiruvallam and Vazhamuttam,1.2 km from Thiruvallam Junction. “The works have commenced and a temporary toll booth will be set up till the permanent toll plaza is ready,” a senior NHAI official told The Hindu.
Around 85% of the work on the 16.3-km Reach II from Mukkola to Karode had been completed. “The stretch is the first using pavement-quality concrete in the State. The aim is to commission it in March 2021,” he added.