The government’s ambitious plan of building around 18,637 km expressways by 2022 has hit a roadblock. Following the recent farmers protests against the Yamuna expressway project in Uttar Pradesh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s remark favouring justifiable compensation for land acquisition, the government has decided to go back to the drawing board on the creation of an expressway authority and the funding pattern of the projects. The ministry of road transport and highways, which was in the process of finalising a draft bill for creation of an expressway authority and take views of state governments, has decided to go slow on the proposals. Last year, highways minister Kamal Nath had announced that a separate authority will be created by 2010 for implementation of expressway projects. The plan has been shelved for a few months till the Centre firms up its land acquisition policy. According to sources, the ministry has been seriously considering the same design, build, finance and operate (DBFO) model as employed by Uttar Pradesh government for Yamuna expressway. Under this model, the government would acquire land for the private developer who would in turn design and build the expressway. The builder would get the rights for collecting toll and real estate development alongside the expressway for a certain period. It would also have rights to develop land for residential, commercial and institutional purposes along the alignment. The government was eyeing good revenue through positive viability gap funding of 20% for expressways. The ministry, however, has decided to put brakes on this as the entire exercise would require land acquisition on a massive scale. A senior ministry official, on the condition of anonymity, said, “Expressway plans would take time now, it may be delayed till next year end. We hope the rural development ministry pushes the land acquisition (amendment) bill and resettlement and rehabilitation bill in the winter session of Parliament. After that we will start the process of finalising the bill for creation of the expressway authority and the funding pattern.” So far, the government has approved construction of 1,000 km of expressways under NHDP Phase-VI at a cost of 16,680 crore with a deadline of December 2015. These include Vadodara-Mumbai, Delhi-Meerut, Bangalore-Chennai and Kolkata-Dhanbad Expressways. This delay in finalising the authority and funding pattern could hit the government’s plans to award 11 expressway projects by the end of the current Five Year Plan. The projects are a part of the first phase of expressway networks in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In the second phase, scheduled between 2013 and 2017, about 3,690 km will be added with the longest stretch being over 700 km. The third phase, between 2018 and 2022, will add another 6,031km. Depending on the need, the third phase may also see construction of an additional 5,275km of expressways on annuity model.