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Southern Expressway ‘Medamulana Exit’: Added in 2014

The engineers behind the construction of the Southern Expressway’s Matara-Hambantota stretch have stated that the controversial exit to Weeraketiya was added to the plan in 2014, and was removed by the previous Government only to be added again by the new Government.

This observation was made by the engineers of the Road Development Authority (RDA) involved in the Southern Expressway Project issuing a statement to The Sunday Morning in response to our article last week headlined “Southern Expressway’s Medamulana Exit: Not in original blueprint”.

“If we focus on the aimed topic of the above article, there was a plan to add two more interchanges to the original scope of work by August 2014 (Kapuduwa IC is in between Godagama and Aparekka and Bedigama IC is in between Beliatta and Kasagala), due to various reasons such as high traffic demand, attracting more people from Hakmana and Kamburupitiya areas which were earlier thought to be collected by the Dandeniya IC, and tourists from Tangalle town which was earlier expected to be collected by Beliatta IC 8 km away from Tangalle town and becomes 5 km from Bedigama IC,” the statement said.

Accordingly, it states that two new interchanges were proposed and included into the scope of relevant sections, namely Kapuduwa Partial Interchange (Colombo direction only)-Matara-Hakmana Road (B275) at Chainage 130+000 area, and the Bedigama Partial Interchange (Colombo direction only)-Tangalle-Weeraketiya Road (B410) at 157+000 area. The letter went on to say that the preliminary design and survey work were completed and a detailed design too was in progress by the time the Government change took place on 8 January 2015.

“However, the new Government established in January 2015 was holding all the ongoing projects for a nearly six-month period for reviewing and meanwhile trying to curtail the cost by adjusting the scope of the work. Under that guillotine, some interchanges were omitted (Kapuduwa and Bedigama IC), some were shifted (Danadeniya to Aparekka), and even the rest area (Getamanna) was also on hold though land acquisition work was completed. From Welipanna to Mattala, there is no such rest area which is a very important part of an expressway, as drivers who are driving for longer periods in the same posture will tend to feel fatigued and sleepy,” the engineers explained.

Thereafter, following the presidential election victory of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the forming of the new Government, a decision was taken to reintroduce the exit to Weeraketiya to “benefit the people”.

“Once the present Government came, they decided to overturn some of the unreasonable decisions such as resuming construction of the above two interchanges (Kapuduwa and Bedigama) and rest areas, giving more benefits to the people who intend to use the expressway,” the statement noted.  The statement also concedes that only the construction work on the exit to Weeraketiya had been started.

“Due to the time constraint, out of two ICs, only one’s construction work (Bedigama) started whereas Kapuduwa’s detailed design is in progress. In the construction of Bedigama IC, alternative bypass route to Tangalle-Weeraketiya Overpass road has been used for this temporary exit. As it is within the Right of Way limits there is no need to do a separate EIA study unless it exceeds the limits in the future when a permanent one is being constructed.”

The statement also refutes the section of The Sunday Morning article which states “The existing Matara-Godagama interchange will no longer be used and the new Palatuwa interchange will replace it”.

“Once the extension part (Matara-Mattala) is connected to the Southern Expressway, Godagama existing toll plaza becomes the entrance to the Colombo direction and exit to the Hambantota direction. Similarly, the new Palatuwa toll plaza becomes the entrance to the Hambantota direction and exit to the Colombo direction. This particular arrangement is purposefully designed by our engineers, in order to avoid the wastage of the previous route up to Nilwala Gate,” the statement said.