When Yogi Adityanath came to power in 2017, Uttar Pradesh had two functional expressways — the 165 km long Yamuna Expressway, which links Agra with the National Capital Region, and the Lucknow-Agra Expressway, stretching 302 km. These projects were completed over a period of nine years between 2008 and 2017.
But when it completes five years in office in 2022, the Adityanath government would to have finished work on three expressways — the 340 km long Purvanchal Expressway, the 296 km long Bundelkhand Expressway and the 91 km long Gorakhpur Link Expressway. Work on the state’s sixth and longest, the 594 km long Ganga Expressway, is likely to have begun by then.
Clearly, the road infrastructure in the state, which this government inherited in a dilapidated state, has received much attention over the 45 months.
Now, 15 months before of the 2022 assembly election in the state, Adityanath is doubling down on his infrastructure push. There is a very visible effort to project the state’s improving road infrastructure as an achievement ahead of the assembly elections, both from Adityanath and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
On Sunday (29 November), while laying the foundation stone for 2,573 stretches of district and village roads totaling 4,095 km, Adityanath reminded the gathering of the identity of Uttar Pradesh as the state with “gaddha yukta sadak (roads full of potholes)”. Every district and tehsil headquarters in the state, the Chief Minister said during the function, “has now been linked with four-lane roads”.
A day later, addressing a gathering in his constituency Varanasi, Modi said Uttar Pradesh has become “Expressway Pradesh” under Adityanath.
“What the status of infrastructure in UP was before 2017 is known to all. But after Yogi ji became chief minister, the speed of infrastructure development increased. Today UP is known as Express Pradesh,” the Prime Minister said.
Modi was in Varanasi to inaugurate multiple infrastructure projects.
Ahead of 2022 election, a five-member Project Monitoring Group, headed by the Chief Secretary, has been constituted to oversee 25 infrastructure projects, including the planning and construction of four expressways.
The Purvanchal Expressway, work on which was expedited in August this year, starts in state capital Lucknow and passes through seven districts — Barabanki, Amethi, Sultanpur, Ayodhya, Ambedkarnagar, Azamgarh and Mau.
“The main carriageway of the Purvanchal Expressway is likely to open for traffic by the end of January 2021,” an official at UP Expressway Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA) told Swarajya. “Other parts of the expressway, including service lanes, will be ready by the beginning of 2022,” he added.
“Nearly 65 per cent of the physical work is now complete,” an official said.
The Purvanchal Expressway will be the first access controlled highway in eastern Uttar Pradesh and is critical for east-west connectivity in the state as it links districts in the eastern part of the state with Lucknow, which in turn is linked to the National Capital Region via the Lucknow-Agra and Yamuna Expressways.
Adityanath’s spiritual influence and political power are concentrated in this part of the state. Gorakhpur, the seat of the Gorakhnath Peeth which Adityanath continues to head as Mahant, lies in eastern Uttar Pradesh. He has represented Gorakhpur in Parliament five times in a row between 1998 and 2014.
After the construction of the expressway, it will be extended by nearly 35-40 km to the district of Balia on the border with Bihar.
Another expressway, called the Gorakhpur Link Expressway, is being constructed to connect the city of Gorakhpur with the Purvanchal Expressway.
Beginning in Gorakhpur, the Gorakhpur Link Expressway will run south passing through the districts of Sant Kabir Nagar and Ambedkarnagar and link with the Purvanchal Expressway in the Azamgarh district, the Vidhan Sabha constituency of former Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav.
“Nearly 20 per cent earthwork and 85 per cent clearing and grubbing work has been completed in this project till date,” the UPEIDA official said.
“The physical progress on the expressway stands at 5.30 per cent,” he added, saying that the government expects the project to be complete by sometime in early 2022.
The expressway will be linked to the city of Varanasi with a separate road.
The Bundelkhand Expressway, as its name suggests, will pass through the districts in UP’s part of Bundelkhand — Chitrakoot, Banda, Hamirpur, Mahoba, Jalaun and Auraiya.
The expressway will link the Bundelkhand region, one of the least developed parts of the country lying in southern Uttar Pradesh and northern Madhya Pradesh, with the Agra-Lucknow Expressway in the Etah district. Via the Agra-Lucknow Expressway and the Yamuna Expressway, the region will be linked to the National Capital Region.
“The tentative deadline for the completion of the Bundelkhand Expressway is January 2022,” the UPEIDA official told Swarajya. “Around 26 per cent of the work on the expressway is complete,” he added.
The Bundelkhand region is important for the BJP electorally — in the 2017 assembly election, the party won all 19 Vidhan Sabha seats in the seven districts that form Uttar Pradesh’s part of Bundelkhand. The party bagged all the four Lok Sabha seats in the region in 2019, repeating its performance of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The expressway is critical for the success of the Bundelkhand Defense Corridor, Chief Minister Adityanath’s flagship project to attract investment in this region. Connectivity between the six nodes of the defense corridor — Jhansi, Chitrakoot, Agra, Lucknow, Kanpur and Aligarh will improve with its construction.
Over 3,440 hectares of land was acquired for the project within 10 months of the start of the process, without any protest from farmers and other stake holders. With this, the Bundelkhand Expressway project now holds a record for the fastest acquisition of land for a highway project in Uttar Pradesh.
Efficient acquisition of land for the expressway project helped the state government cut down cost escalation by around 12 per cent.
With these expressways already in the construction phase, the Adityanath government has shifted its focus to the Ganga Expressway.
The Ganga Expressway will connect Meerut in western Uttar Pradesh to Prayagraj in the eastern part of the state, traversing Hapur, Bulandshahar, Amroha, Sambhal, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Hardoi, Unnao, Rai Bareli and Pratapgarh districts.
With Meerut linked to the National Capital Region via the Delhi-Meerut Expressway — India’s widest with 14 lanes, the expressway will serve as the second highway link between Delhi and eastern Uttar Pradesh.
The Ganga Expressway project was first proposed by the Mayawati-led government in 2007. However, work on the project, still in the preliminary stage, came to a halt after the Allahabad High Court canceled its environment clearance in 2009 because the proposed alignment was too close to the Ganga river’s channel.
Construction of the expressway too close to the bank of the Ganga River channel can damage the flood plains of the river, experts said at the time.
When Adityanath took over, the project was revived and the alignment of the expressway was changed. The Adityanath government decided to shift the alignment of the expressway 10 kilometers away from the river channel.
“Currently, the formalities to be finished before the land acquisition process begins are being completed,” the UPEIDA official said, adding that the authorities will begin acquiring land for the expressway project soon.
In November, Chief Minister Adityanath said the foundation stone for the project will be laid in June 2021, by which time around 90 per cent land required for the construction of the expressway would have been acquired.
The alignment for the expressway has been finalised and construction is likely to begin sometime ahead of the 2022 assembly polls.