To have a convenient motorable bridge over Punatshangchhu at Khuruthang in Punakha has remained a long-awaited dream for road users. Due to an increasing number of road users, the current single-lane bailey bridge over the river poses a high risk of accidents. However, the issue is expected to be addressed soon. The work to construct a concrete permanent bridge has been awarded to a contractor. If everything goes as planned, the bridge will be ready for use by the end of 2025. The bridge connects Punakha and Wangdue Phodrang.
Kuenphen bailey bridge constructed in 2003 is quite narrow making it difficult for vehicles to drive through and posing risks for pedestrians. People of all age groups and even animals use the bailey bridge with no other alternatives. Moreover, some portions of the deck have developed rust and holes making it unsafe for pedestrians especially, children.
Likewise, vehicles have to wait at one end to let those coming from the opposite direction pass. The bailey bridge has a carrying capacity of 24 metric tonnes.
Road users and traffic in the area have drastically increased after the construction of the Secondary National Highway between Khuruthang in Punakha and Bajo town in Wangdue Phodrang.
“All of our people travel through this bridge. But since the bridge is narrow, there is a high risk of pedestrians getting hit by passing vehicles. Pedestrians have to climb on parts of the bridge quite often to let the vehicles pass,” said Kinley Phub, a resident of Bjimithang.
“Our children have to walk along with the vehicles on the bridge. There is a chance of them getting hit by vehicles without much space for walking. Out of such fear, we go to reach our children to school in the morning and pick them up in the evening. Moreover, some drivers drive recklessly on the bridge. Therefore, it is risky for our children to walk on the bridge,” said Kencho Dorji, another resident.
The old bailey bridge is almost 20 years old now. The new concrete double-lane bridge with a pedestrian footpath will be constructed just above where the present bailey bridge is located at.
The construction of the more than one hundred feet long bridge is financed by the Government of India. It will cost Nu 320 M.
Currently, river training works and the setting of labour camps are going on at the site. Two private construction companies are carrying out the 32-month-long project in two phases.
One of the companies is taking over the five-month-long bridge design works while the other one will be executing the construction works for 27 months.
“We plan to make a permanent bridge. A permanent bridge means RCC bridge and then it will be of the double lane, and then there will be a footpath on it,” said Karma Tenzin, the Chief Engineer of the Department of Surface Transport Regional Office in Punakha.
The news has brought smiles to the faces of road users and nearby residents.
“We are extremely delighted after hearing that the government is constructing a convenient bridge here. All the people are happy now,” said Kinley Phub.
“Of course, we have a bridge in Wangdue over Punatsangchhu connecting the eastern part. But we do not have any other alternative bridges if anything happens with the bridge in Wangdue. So, this new bridge in Khuruthang can be an alternate route towards the eastern region if anything happens to the existing bridge in Wangdue,” added the Chief Engineer.
Once complete, the new bridge will not only benefit the commuters and residents of Bajo and Khuruthang but also the people of the five gewogs of Punakha while visiting the dzong and the market.
Changa Dorji, Wangdue Phodrang
Edited by Phub Gyem