Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 10 July 2011





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Only 20 minutes to BIA:

Katunayake Expressway ready next year

It was way back in the mid-seventies that discussions were conducted to construct a road from Peliyagoda to the Colombo International Airport. This was mainly targeting the Non-Aligned Summit that was being hosted in Sri Lanka.

Plans were drawn and even a few bridges were constructed towards this highway. However, it never got off the ground and only the bridges and a huge red bill remained with the Government as the mark of a failed development project.

However, film-makers, advertisers and politicians used the Peliyagoda Bridge to put up their hoardings and it would be interesting to see if taxes were ever paid for advertising on this bridge.

After almost 30 years, the topic of an expressway to the airport was taken up again and in 2,000 a consortium once again got off the ground. However, this time around too, financial problems put a spoke on the project and it was stalled once again.

With the rapid expansion of the Colombo airport and tourism booming a quick access to the Colombo airport was a crying need. VVIPs, investors, tourists as well as the public did not have time to waste travelling from Colombo to the airport. President Mahinda Rajapaksa intervened and negotiated with the Exim Bank of China to fund this project.

It soon started moving again and today nearly 60 percent has been completed.

The investment for the project is US$ 292 million, and the project has been awarded on a Design and Build Basis.

If the expressway was built 10 years ago, Sri Lanka could have saved over one billion rupees.

China Metallurgical Group Corporation, the contractor for the project, is one of the largest companies in the world and is listed among the world’s 500 largest companies (Fortune 500). The Sri Lankan Government too would contribute 15 percent of the cost.


Access to the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway (CKE) would be from the New Kelani Bridge Interchange and from the Peliyagoda Interchange. For the second interchange two roads would be built from the Negombo road and Kandy road.

The third interchange at Kerawalapitiya would connect the CKE with the Outer Circular Highway.

The Colombo outer circular express highway would be a 29 km (18 mile) long outer circular road network that will link the proposed Colombo-Matara Expressway with the proposed Colombo-Katunayake Expressway. It will provide an orbital beltway to bypass the city of Colombo and reduce traffic congestion. The project is funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

Construction of the road commenced in October 2009 and will be completed next year. Access will be provided to all “A” class roads via interchanges. The highway will have an operational speed limit of 80 km/h and is to be built with four lanes and provisions to upgrade the road for six lanes of traffic.

This Outer Circular Highway is being built to connect the CKE with the Colombo_Matara Expressway, enabling a driver to go to the airport without coming to Colombo.

A person would be able to drive to the Colombo airport in less than one hour and 20 minutes.

The Ja-Ela Interchange would be the fourth interchange and the CKE would end near the Katunayake railway station.

Motorists using the expressway would have to pay a nominal fee once it is commissioned. No three-wheelers or motor bikes would be allowed on the expressway, thus maintaining international standards.

The CKE would have 42 bridges and 88 culverts to ensure the smooth flow of traffic.

Land acquisition and resettlement due to the project were also closely monitored and Rs. 1,620 million paid in compensation for the acquired land to 700 families that had to be relocated.

Nearly 1,400 people have been directly employed on the project while several local contractors have been given sub-contracts.

Twenty-minutes drive

The CKE will be the first fee-levying road project in the country. “It is the only highway that is being built using sea sand,” said Project Director (CKE) M.P.K.L. Gunaratne. Another feature is the careful planning the authorities resorted to when designing this project. “We paid great emphasis to landscaping the area and environment concerns were a priority”, Gunaratne said.

He said this was the reason they built several bridges on the lagoon near Airport Garden Hotel, allowing the hotel to maintain its lagoon activity.

“They can even take a boat to the hotel from the bridges”.

This is also the first time that a road has been constructed on a lagoon for a highway. The length of this stretch is 750 metres.

The travel time of 90 minutes from the New Kelani Bridge to Katunayake on the existing Peliyagoda-Puttalam road will be reduced to 20 minutes with the completion of the highway.

Enough land

Katunayake, Ja-Ela and Seeduwa have enough land for resettlement, however people did not want to settle in these areas as it takes nearly two hours to travel to Colombo. While creating a high mobility link between the city of Colombo and the Katunayake International Airport, the new highway would also be promoting outward migration of public from Colombo. It would also improve user benefits to the rapidly expanding transport traffic.”So in future, we would see large housing complexes being built near the highway and the land prices would soar soon due to the anticipated demand.

With the opening of the CKE, many motorists using the Colombo-Negombo and Colombo-Kandy Road would be using it instead. Then these two roads would clear, allowing faster driving and less traffic jams”, he said.

It would also help investors move their goods faster, thus reducing their cost of products. New enterprises such as petrol sheds, hotels, and shops would be built near the interchanges, providing new opportunities for business to entrepreneurs.

Decongesting the existing Peliyagoda-Puttalam Road (A3) and enhancing the safety of the road users would be another advantage.

The existing roads are being redone to fall in line with the CKE and this is evident in the Colombo-Kandy road up to Kadawatha with an island being built in the middle of the road and the stretch being carpeted.

The first sight a foreign VIP, investor or tourist visiting Sri Lanka after a long time would be is of the redeveloped Colombo airport.

The new Expressway would provide the visitor and even better image of the country and would certainly move the island closer towards its goal of becoming the Wonder of Asia.


The Colombo-Katunayake Expressway (CKE) is the first of many expressway projects the Government is in the process of implementing to strengthen and expand the country’s road network with a view to fostering a greater economic development in Sri Lanka.

The CKE will be the first fee-levying road project in the country.

Project objectives

*Create a high speed link between Colombo and Katunayake (International Airport)

*Serve the traffic to and from the Northern part of the island

*Link with the rapid industrial expansion in the area

*Encourage outward migration of people living under congested conditions in and around Colombo

* Interchanges

New Kelani Bridge Interchange

Peliyagoda Interchange

Kerawalapitiya Interchange (connect with Outer Circular Highway)

Ja-Ela Interchange

Katunayake Interchange

* Design Details

Speed Limit From 0 to 8 km 80 km / h

From 8 to 25 km 110 km/h

* Road Length

25.1 km

* Carriageway Width

25.4 m

*Number of Lanes

4 and 6


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