"The project aims at connecting four districts of western Odisha like Bargarh, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, and Sundergarh with four KBK (Kalahandi-Balangir-Koraput) districts namely Koraput, Nawrangpur, Kalahandi and Nuapada," Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said after launching the Biju Expressway project here.

The expressway will also connect many border towns of western and south Odisha like Chandli, Boriguma, Nabarangpur, Papadahandi, Ambapani, Dharmagarh, Sinapali, Behella, Nuapada, Paikmal, Padmapur, Sohela, Bargarh, Sambalpur, Jharsuguda, Sundergarh, and Rourkela.

As the expressway would pass through one of the most backward regions of the state, KBK region, it would help boost its economy, the chief minister said.

Besides boosting agriculture, trade and commerce, and social sector development, Patnaik said Biju Expressway would support the state's initiatives in mainstreaming socially and economically backward people.

In the first phase of the project, 254 km road will be converted to four-lanes and 402 kilometers to be two-lanes. In the second phase, 258 km will be made four-lane. The total project outlay is Rs 3200 crore, officials said.

On the funding of the project, a senior official at the road and building department said, "The state has already started 4-laning from Rourkela to Sambalpur (160 km) through PPP mode while 4-laning from Sambalpur to Sohella via Bargarh (74 km) to be funded by Ministry of Road Transport & Highways."

Both the state and the Centre would bear the expense to be made in the project, he said.

While the first phase of the project is scheduled to be completed by May 2017, the second phase completion target has been fixed by end of 2019.

Currently it requires 13 hours to travel from Jagdalpur to Rourkela and, after completion of the project, the distance could be covered only in six hours, officials said.

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