The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Papua New Guinea (PNG) today signed a US$325 million loan to help fund tranche 2 of the Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Programme, a key transport development connecting some of PNG’s most remote rural communities and farmers to services and market opportunities.
ADB Director General for the Pacific Leah Gutierrez and PNG Treasurer Ian Ling-Stuckey signed the agreement, which will fund the upgrade of bridges and support the safe and efficient movement of people between the Highlands Region and markets.
“The Sustainable Highlands Highway Investment Programme is not only developing critical transport infrastructure and better connecting rural communities, it is also training the next generation of women civil engineers who will continue to connect communities for decades to come,” said Gutierrez.
“This project is creating more opportunities for about 3 million people in the highlands region, both in terms of business activity and widening access to social services,” said Ling-Stuckey. “Enhanced safety is a key feature and road users will benefit from shorter travel times and lower vehicle operating costs. Maintaining the road and enhanced connectivity will increase mobility and encourage farmers to shift from subsistence to market-based, high-volume agriculture.”
The loan will help upgrade 71 bridges along the national Highlands Highway, comprising 41 two-lane and 30 single-lane bridges, between Lae Nadzab Airport to Kagamuga Airport in Mount Hagen, to meet national design standards and mitigate climate change risks. The rehabilitation or replacement of these bridges will include pedestrian walkways separated by rails or barriers and will provide easy accessibility for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and children. At least 20 water points for washing and bathing will be installed on bridges, which will provide safer amenities for women in particular.
Other gender-focused activities include targeting 40% female participation in community consultation for project design and implementation and building separate male/female toilets in 35 bridge/roadside market areas included in the program. Department of Works staff, including three women, will be trained to improve knowledge in conducting bridge condition assessment using advanced design techniques.
The ADB-supported programme will also improve the sustainability of the Highlands Highway, the nation’s most strategic national road that traverses five provinces in the Highlands Region, PNG’s most populous and resource-abundant region. It is rehabilitating and upgrading 430 kilometers of the Highlands Highway, improving road safety, supporting the establishment of logistics platforms and services for agricultural production, and improving sector governance through reforms and institutional development.