With the launch of the 190ft and 6ms width Bailey bridge over Gongri, few metres away from the Kuri-Gongri confluence, the long-awaited Gyalpoizhing-Nganglam highway was connected on February 27.

Department of Roads officials, however, say the road would only open to traffic once they complete the final works and the road is officially inaugurated.

Officials say they will have to complete base course works to blacktop 10kms of the road on either sides of the bridge.

Chief engineer of DoR’s regional office in Lingmethang, Karma Rinzin, said that it took seven days for 30 engineers, 27 regional officers, three officials from bridge division in Thimphu and 30 labourers to launch the bridge.

The bridge construction began in November last year although it was scheduled to start in September. The government of India supported the bridge construction with Nu 19.5 million.

The highway is about 76km and is expected to be a two and half hours drive. There are more than 20 bridges along the highway.

Officials say that the highway would be prone to falling stones and logs in winter, and soil erosion and floods in summer since the highway passes through cliffs and steep rocks.

Karma Rinzin said commuters would be advised to travel between 7am and 2pm. “After 2pm, the winds blow and boulders fall on the road.”

He also said that as a safety measure, they would construct short crate and short cementing in risky areas.

Meanwhile, the highway construction took more than 10 years to complete. Initial works started in the 9th Plan.

The road is expected to benefit six dzongkhags of Mongar, Lhuentse, Bumthang, Trashigang, Pemagatshel and Trashiyangtse.

A Gyalpoizhing resident, Sonam Yeshi, 57, said prices for construction materials, food and drinks are expected to drop since the travel distance would be shortened by two to three days for Mongar and Gyalpoizhing town.

He said that he also expects to see farmers being able to sell their agriculture products.

A hardware dealer at Gyalpoizhing town, Tandin Wangmo, 45, said her three-year old business would pick up once the highway opens to traffic.

Others say they expect to reach Phuentsholing in a day, which otherwise takes about a week to travel via Samdrupjongkhar.

As gratitude, people from Gyalpoizhing town, Lhuentse and Mongar visited the site with drinks and edibles for the DoR officials during the bridge launch.

Tashi Phuntsho | Kuri Gongri