In 2000, the government of Bangladesh conducted a prefeasibility study for the construction of a bridge across the Padma River that separates the southwest zone from other parts of the country, including the north-central zone where the national capital of Dhaka is located. The prefeasibility report established the technical and economic viability of the project and recommended several potential sites. In 2001, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) conducted the feasibility study, which (i) recommended the Mawa–Janjira site as the crossing location of the Padma Bridge; (ii) reaffirmed its technical and economic viability; and (iii) recommended the construction of (a) a two-lane dual carriageway, cable-stayed (or extradosed) bridge; (b) a two-lane, dual carriageway approach road; and (c) bank protection works. Given the importance of forming an international transport corridor, a design alternative (a highway bridge with a railway provision) was also recommended. The estimated cost of the ensuing investment project was $1.26 billion at 2004 prices.
The proposed Padma Bridge was a multipurpose structure that would carry (i) a highway, (ii) a single-track railway line, and (iii) utilities such as a gas pipeline and telecommunication cables. It would provide a safer and faster transport link to the southwest region of Bangladesh, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. It was estimated that the construction of the bridge would boost national gross domestic product by 1.2%. It would also contribute to the multimodal international transport network by connecting to the trans-Asian railway route and by enabling cargo movement between India and Chittagong, south of Bangladesh.
The ensuing Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project (investment project) consisted of two phases: (i) phase 1 comprised the design phase through procurement action to award of construction contracts, and (ii) phase 2 comprised the construction. For phase 1, the Asian Bank (ADB) approved in December 2007 a technical assistance (TA) loan of $17.6 million for the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Design Project. To meet cost overruns, a $10 million supplementary loan was approved in September 2009. The design project’s impact envisaged was to facilitate the preparation of an investment loan to construct the Padma Bridge, while its expected outcome was the detailed design of the bridge and other auxiliary works agreed on by the government and ADB. Its intended outputs were: (i) scheme designs, (ii) technical studies, (iii) detailed design, (iv) tender action, (v) environmental impact assessment, (vi) resettlement plan, and (vii) land acquisition plan. The design project would minimize technical uncertainty and ensure readiness to implement the ensuing investment project.
As part of the implementation process of phase 2, the investment loan was approved in 2010 with cofinancing from the Islamic Development Bank, JICA, and the World Bank. After the government decided to use its own funds to finance the ensuing investment project, funding from ADB, Islamic Development Bank, JICA, and the World Bank was terminated. The tender process was disrupted by the cancellation of the ensuing investment project, and the detailed design consultant was therefore not able to complete all the tasks up to contract preparation and award. Four out of the five output indicators were either partially or substantially achieved or achieved with delay.
The Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) was the project executing agency. A project implementation unit, established under the BBA, took charge of the project on a day-to-day basis.