New Delhi: The first leg of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway, which includes India’s first 14-lane highway and 2.5 metre cycle track, will be completed by next month, union minister Nitin Gadkari said on Tuesday.

It is being completed in a record 14 months as against the scheduled 30 months, the road transport and highways minister said. On completion, the expressway will reduce the travel time significantly from Delhi to Meerut to just 45 minutes from three-four hours at present, he said. Prime Minister Narendra Modi—on 31 December 2015—had laid the foundation stone of the Rs7,566 crore expressway.

Gadkari said 75% of the work in the first phase of the expressway—from Nizamuddin bridge to the Delhi-UP border—is complete. He said the project, which includes a six-lane expressway in the middle and four-lane highways on both sides, will help curb pollution in Delhi by diverting the traffic from other states like Uttarakhand. Gadkari said adequate steps, including sprinkling of water, are being taken during the construction of national highways to minimize pollution.

Pollution in Delhi is not only linked to automobiles but to climate change as well and the government is mulling using vacuum cleaners to remove dust from the roads, he added. The 8.7km stretch of the first phase project involves a vertical garden being developed on the Yamuna bridge, solar system lighting and dip irrigation for watering plants besides new 4+4-lane major bridges across Yamuna. The entry to the expressway will be near CWG village while the exit will be at Akshardham and Ghazipur.

According to officials, 495 slums were rehabilitated for the project and 40,000 saplings are to be planted in lieu of 3,261 trees removed. Phase-II of the project involves a six-lane expressway and eight-laning from Delhi/UP Border to Dasna for 19.28km, while Phase-III will involve six-laning of NH-24 for 22.27km from Dasna to Hapur.

Phase-IV will be for 31.70km of new greenfield alignment from Dasna to Meerut. NHAI has taken up the development of the Delhi-Meerut Expressway (DME) under phase VI of NHDP as presently there is only one route, NH-58, between the two cities, on which the traffic remains jammed at several places.

“Considering volume of traffic and need for connectivity for Meerut and beyond for Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, there is urgent need for an expressway between these two places for the unhindered fast and safe travel from Delhi to Meerut and vice-versa," Gadkari said.