Connectivity: Works and human settlement minister, Dorji Choden said that the road widening works on the lateral East-West highway would be completed by 2017 end.

“By October 2017, almost 90 percent of the widening works should be complete going by the contract schedules,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said yesterday in 23rd meet the press.

The minister said by June, the bitumen works would start between Thimphu and Wangdue.

“Procuring of materials such as bitumen and aggregates, which is the most difficult part is now being carried out to begin bitumen works by the end of this monsoon,” Lyonpo Dorji Choden said.

As per the cumulative progress report from DoR almost 75 percent of the widening works are completed as of March 31.

“We are confident that we will be able to complete the works by the end of 2017,” DoR director Karma Galay said.

DoR has already started blacktopping between Lamperi and the Wangdue bridge. DoR is planning to complete the blacktopping between Thimphu and Wangdue in December.

“By next year people should be able to drive smoothly from Thimphu to Wangdue,” Karma Galay said, adding as of now around 10.3km has been completed between Dochula-Wangdue.

Base course works has also been completed between Yusipang and the Wangdue bridge. Only permanent drainage works at some sections are left.

Once the blacktopping works are complete, Wangdue will be only one and a half-hour drive from Thimphu. When the lateral highway widening is completed, Bumthang should be just a four or five hour drive from Thimphu while Trashigang will be a 11-12 hour drive.

While the widening works are still under progress, people traveling between Thimphu and Wangdue are already feeling the impact of the road widening. Even now with just the base course complete, the traveling distance has been shortened.

“We can reach Wangdue in two and a half hours even under the present road condition,” a cabbie from Thimphu, Namgyal Pelzang said.

“It used to take three hours before when the road was much narrower.”

As the road conditions improve by the day, the number of tourists visiting Wangdue and Punakha is also increasing.

“Now they love to travel to Punakha because of slight improvement in road conditions,” freelance tourist guide, Bijay Tirwa said.

“The improved road conditions has also made travel comfortable for the guests.”

The shortened travel distance with better road conditions in future would also boost tourism in the east. Bijay Tirwa said the shortened distance would also enable travel agents to improve and include more activities.

Improved roads would also reduce maintenance costs for public transport, taxies and other road users.

“Fuel consumption should go down drastically once the road widening is completed,” a bus driver, Kezang said.

With traveling distance shortened between Thimphu and Trashigang, tourists can also exit from Samdrupjongkhar in future.

“If tourists exit from Samdrupjongkhar, the local business entities by the highways and those in the east should benefit a lot,” Bijay Tirwa said.

Cumulative progress from DoR states that the formation cutting for 263.55km has been completed as of March 31.

“But more works are being completed as we speak since there is progress every hour,” Karma Galay said.

Sub-grade works for 43.44km and granular sub-base for 45.02km has also been completed. Five kilometres of wet mix macadam has been completed. Between Dochula and Wangdue, dense bitumen macadam for 27.3km has been done.

Of the total 382.9km widening works under progress 109.59km is done departmentally and 153.96 is contracted out. Dantak is taken up the 52km stretch of the highway between Yadi and Trashigang.

The DoR is however yet to award certain segments of the highway.

“We are yet to contract out two-three of the packages like Yongkola-Lingmethang,” Karma Galay said.

Lyonpo Dorji Choden also assured that the DoR is making vigorous efforts in monitoring the widening works to ensure quality. Teams are monitoring every phase of the work such as base course and bitumen works.

“Our hope is the road should come out well in terms of quality. The pavement should last at least 10 years,” Karma Galay said.

There must be no issue with the stability as well since the contract period is for two years.

There is more than one year between the formation cutting and the actual laying of the pavement.

“The required stability should be there although stability has always been a problem in the mountainous countries,” the director said.

Tempa Wangdi