In a major boon to the state’s road sector, a high-level World Bank team, visiting Gujarat last week, indicated it would provide $350 million loan to strengthen and widen 1,500 kilometres of arterial state highways out of the state’s 6,300-km-long core road network. The eight-member team, led by senior WB official Arnab Bandyopadhyay, told state officials that it will “go ahead” and “prepare” a techno-feasibility study, identifying the state roads they will take up. Officials showed special interest in four-laning or widening to 10 metres of such roads like Rajkot-Morbi, Mehsana-Vijapur, Rajkot-Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad-Modasa as also the eastern state highway, apart from roads connecting Mundra, Hazira, Pipavav and Magdalla ports. To be called Gujarat State Highways Project II, WB decided to take keen interest in taking up more roads, after praising, in a top report, Gujarat State Highways Project-I as “highly satisfactory” and “exemplary” for other states to follow. The $550-million first phase covered 2,000 km of roads — strengthening or widening of Ahmedabad-Viramgam-Maliya, Rajkot-Jamnagar, Velavadar-Jamnagar, Surat-Olpad, Bharuch-Dahej, Mehsana-Palanpur and Shamlaji-Halol — from 2001 to 2007. The WB team, which met senior officials in roads and buildings, transport and finance departments, and made on-the-spot inspection of state highways postmonsoon off Rajkot, Morbi, Bhavnagar, Mehsana, Chanasma and Satlasana, submitted a concrete programme to take up the new project. While the techno-feasibility report will be ready by March 2011, the final project clearance is expected by February 2012. The state government had submitted a proposal for $500 million to WB to strengthen and widen 1,800 km of roads, especially because of fresh possibilities of industrialisation along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project, special investment regions and special economic zones. A WB team led by institutional specialist Ernst Huming visited Gujarat in December 2009 to make preliminary inquiry about the state’s needs. Based on its report, the WB sent its second mission last week, and took reports from the state government on the roads that can be taken up. Officials showed special interest in four-laning or widening to 10 metres of such roads like Rajkot-Morbi, Mehsana-Vijapur, Rajkot-Bhavnagar, Ahmedabad-Modasa as also the eastern state highway, apart from roads connecting Mundra, Hazira, Pipavav and Magdalla ports. The WB team insisted that it would like to take up a special component on road safety, including traffic information system, licensing, patrolling, toeing and provision of equipment for all this. The WB, in its report, had found that the road safety was “unfortunately subdued largely due to lack of political and bureaucratic championship”.