By JUNIOR UKAHA
THE government needs about K6 billion to completely overhaul the Highlands Highway to modern standard.
A study on the reconstruction, commissioned by developer of the liquefied natural gas project ExxonMobil, was presented to the Department of Works yesterday at Parliament House.
The cost estimate was put at US$2.2 billion (or K5.83 billion), according to government officials at the ceremony.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Works and Transport Don Polye was on hand to receive the report.
The report highlighted the phases of the upgrade of the entire 759km stretch from Lae in Morobe to Hides, Southern Highlands, over the next five years (2010-15) and how much it will cost.
The cost estimate included works on road and bridge redesign, reconstruction, maintenance and upgrading from Lae to Hides via Eastern Highlands, Chimbu and Western
Highlands. The initial priority works designated in the study included immediate repairs and maintenance to five key sections – Kassam Pass, Daulo Pass, Chimbu-Eastern Highlands border and the area close to Mendi.
Polye said funding for the work would come from the government’s annual budgets and from borrowings onshore and offshore.
The project would be managed by the National Roads Authority and the Department of Works with input from an international consultant.
Polye said work had begun in some crucial sections of the Highlands Highway, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and AusAID under separate arrangements.
He said the aim was to do a complete overhaul of the deteriorating highway and turn it from an outdated T40 (40 tonne) road and bridge system to a new T60 road and bridge structure.
He said constructing work on the highway would go into full swing next year.