Eight months after one of its narrow side lanes collapsed when a truck tried to traverse it and ended up on the railway tracks below, the Bhandari Bridge, lifeline of Amritsar and the sole link between its walled city and the Civil Lines area, is yet to be repaired and widened amid increasing traffic.
The project approved in mid2012 is unfinished. The “Uchcha Pul (High Bridge)”, was once synonymous with the beggars sitting on its sides. Constructed after 1953 and named after Padam Chand Bhandari, who contributed to preparing its plan and sanctioning its construction as engineer, it has railway lines running under and vehicles moving over round the clock.
Eight months ago, a pedestrian and two-wheeler land on the left of the overpass on the Crystal Chowk ascent caved in under the weight of a heavy truck. The section remains cordoned off without repair.
Be it the regular traffic in the walled city and Civil Lines, or the tourist and pilgrim rush on road, the bridge remains an important link for all, and most people have to cross it at least once a day. The traffic along the elevated road that leans on this bridge also traverses the boulevard on its way in and out of the city and the walled zone.
Engineering consultancy company RITES counted more than 1-lakh vehicles on the bridge in 24 hours. It remains one of the most polluted areas of the city, yet supporting the ambitious elevated road that was laid for easy access to the Amritsar’s most famous landmark, the Golden Temple.
There are two proposals for widening the bridge. One entails a new bridge under the proposed Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS), a project that the public works department (PWD) will oversee. Amritsar Improvement Trust (AIT) oversees the other plan, though it’s the Northern Railway authorities who have to clear it.
“The bridge is 16-metre wide, too narrow to accommodate the heavy traffic it bears daily,” said AIT chairman Sandeep Rishi, adding that the RITES plan in this regard had been forwarded to the Northern Railway for approval.
The project to be overseen by AIT is likely to cost ? 20 crore and employ Korean technology. “The remodelling and reconstruction work will go to an Indian company using this technology, and tenders called after the Railways give us the green signal,” said Rishi.
In view of the increasing traffic on the GT Road, the municipal corporation mulls extending the bridge to to the Putlighar side. The project will cost about ? 50 crore; but before it could take take off, he has hit the roadblock of fund crunch.