If everything goes as planned, the country's longest bridge over a river, the Mahatma Gandhi Setu (5.57 km) connecting north and south Bihar over the Ganga at Patna, will undergo a change in its superstructure, something never done in India till now.
The project is likely to need Rs 1,900 crore and the government might invite global bids. Inaugurated in 1982, the bridge connects Patna in the south to Hajipur in the north of Bihar. It is part of National Highway 19.
According to sources, the bridge was built with a ‘Prestressed Cantilever Arms’ technology, not considered a suitable one any more. There are locations where the bridge is bent because of distressed hinges and finger-type expansion joints.
A source added, “The only permanent solution could be renewal of its superstructure by Steel Truss Girders, i.e the steel framework will replace the entire concrete superstructure. While the superstructure is damaged, the pillars are not and nor is the foundation weakened.”
“The techno-feasibility report for carrying out rehabilitation work has already been given. We are going to submit the report to the ministry for project approval. After this, it would be sent it to the Public Investment Board for finance approval.”
Of the likely investment of Rs 1,900 crore, as much as Rs 400 crore would be for dismantling the superstructure. On being asked why the government wasn't thinking of building a new bridge, a senior official said that would cost Rs 5,000 crore. "Further, since the bridge leads directly to the centre of Patna city, it is difficult to acquire land and rehabilitate the existing population, as the bridge runs through highly populated areas."
The volume of traffic in the region is rising rapidly and this will continue, with the expansion of trade from Nepal and Bhutan. Also, Patna city is predicted to become a high-concentration spot for economic activity.