The average travel speed on this elevated highway once completed has been estimated to be 80kmph. As of now, this speed is about 10kmph or even less during peak time in the morning
The development of the four-lane elevated highway, which is 17.3 km in length, stretching from New Kelani Bridge (Orugodawatte) to Athurugiriya was proposed in 2015 to improve the road network for the heavy influx of vehicles into Colombo city limits. Phase One (6.9 km in length) of the project has been planned from Orugodawatte to Rajagiriya and Phase Two (10.4 km long) from Rajagiriya to Athurugiriya.
According to the Highways and Road Development and Petroleum Resources Ministry, the Orugodawatte end of the elevated highway connects to the Colombo–Katunayake Expressway and the Port Access Elevated Highway through the New Kelani Bridge Project. The Kelani Bridge expansion project has already been started, while the construction of the Port Access Elevated Highway is to commence shortly. The Athurugiriya end of the elevated highway connects to the Outer Circular Expressway.
The initial proposal of the RDA was to have the elevated highway over the recently constructed Averihena Lake, which serves as a flood retention area, and surrounding paddy fields. The selected area was a part of the Thalangama wetland which was declared an Environmental Protection Area under the National Environmental Act in 2007. This was enough reason for the CEA to express its concerns on possible environmental damage the project might cause to the wetland.
In the wake of these concerns raised by the CEA, the RDA proposed an alternative route from Pothuarawa, but the residents faced off the proposal asking as to why the RDA chose a highly residential area
Taking all aspects and arguments into consideration, RDA Chairman Nihal Sooriyarachchi said the Authority, in its feasibility study, has come up with four alternatives in a bid to circumvent the land issues as much as possible.
According to the RDA Project Office, the feasibility study conducted by independent consultants is nearing completion and the final report will be submitted to the CEA within two weeks.
“After that, we will proceed to the EIA subject to the changes and conditions proposed by the CEA. In the feasibility study, we considered aspects such as the social impact, environmental impact, economic viability, technical viability, financial viability and so on,” the officials at the Project Office explained.
The first and second alternatives proposed by the RDA connect to the Outer Circular Expressway from the Athurugiriya interchange. The first alternative which runs through the Thalangama Wetland does not affect any houses, while the second alternative proposed through Pothuarawa requires the demolishing of 119 houses.
The third and fourth alternatives proposed by the RDA also involve highly residential areas. As explained by RDA officials, the third alternative is to connect the elevated highway to the Outer Circular Expressway from the Kaduwela interchange. This plan affects 162 houses. The fourth alternative is to connect it to the Kottawa interchange, the starting point of the Southern Expressway and Outer Circular Expressway. It would affect 406 houses.
“The fourth option is very costly and its length is comparatively more. We would recommend the first alternative. As the elevated highway is constructed over pillars, it won’t do cause environmental damage. However, the environmental officers in the CEA think otherwise. We tried to convince them that erecting three pillars on the edge of tank would be sufficient for the purpose,” said the RDA officials at the Project Office.