The Capital Development Authority (CDA) has faced mounting criticism for its decision to suspend the underpass project at Serena Chowk on Srinagar Highway. This abrupt halt to the construction work has triggered daily traffic congestion at the intersection, posing significant difficulties for commuters, especially during rush hours.
CDA Suspends Underpass Project
The project initially gained traction when in July, the CDA opened a tender to award the contract for the underpass construction. Notably, Railcop, an entity affiliated with Pakistan Railways, submitted a bid lower than that of the National Logistics Cell (NLC). Railcop’s bid, amounting to Rs2.1 billion, undercut the NLC’s bid of Rs3.5 billion, securing the contract.
The underpass project was slated for inauguration on August 3, with then-Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif as the guest of honor. However, at the eleventh hour, Prime Minister Sharif decided not to inaugurate the project, expressing reservations about Railcop’s expertise in constructing underpasses. Instead, he directed the CDA to provide a detailed presentation on the project’s feasibility and execution.
Regrettably, since then, the bid’s validity has lapsed, effectively shelving the project. An engineer from the CDA stated, “The bid has expired…technically, this project has been shelved.” He further explained that should the CDA decide to resume the project, the agency would need to initiate the bidding process anew.
Impact of the Suspension
The suspension of the underpass project has had a severe impact on the daily lives of Islamabad residents, particularly those commuting through Serena Chowk. Rizwan Ali, a cab driver, expressed his frustration, saying, “Every day, I face traffic jams here, but the CDA is not showing any interest in resolving this issue.”
The CDA engineer argued that the project should be given priority, as it holds relevance for facilitating the smooth flow of traffic. Notably, several significant roads, including Constitution Avenue, Club Road (Murree Road), Srinagar Highway, and Ataturk Avenue, converge at this intersection, leading to persistent congestion.
The engineer emphasized, “If the bid’s validity has expired, the civic agency should seek fresh tenders. However, shelving this project does not make any sense. The CDA will have to construct it sooner or later.”
In Islamabad, several junctions plagued by traffic congestion have seen marked improvement through underpasses and interchange projects. Serena Chowk and F-9 signals remain critical areas where traffic issues continue to affect the daily lives of residents.
The stalled project aimed to widen Srinagar Highway from the 7th Avenue Interchange to Serena Chowk by adding two additional lanes. Additionally, a portion of the highway from the junction to Murree Road was scheduled for renovation as part of the project, which was expected to take six months to complete.
As commuters continue to grapple with the daily traffic chaos at Serena Chowk, the fate of the underpass project remains uncertain, leaving many to wonder when relief will finally come to this heavily congested intersection.