… new bridge expected to complete in two years

Chencho Dema | Punakha 

The Department of Surface Transport has restricted heavy vehicles from plying over  Khuru Kuenphen Zam, a Bailey bridge in Punakha with immediate effect. The department’s office in Lobesa informed the public in its notice on July 26. 

The department’s engineers inspected the bridge recently and concluded that it has noticeable sagging (maximum deflection of 204mm at mid-span), which was attributed to its age and the growing frequency of vehicle movement over time. 

“As a result of the structural elements of the bridge being overworked, stressed, and deformed, the design capacity of the bridge has been severely compromised,” the office order stated.

The office also reduced the load-carrying capacity of the bridge from 24 metric tonnes to 18MT considering commuters’ safety. This is to limit the movement of any heavy vehicle and machinery types exceeding 18 MT over the bridge. 

The residents of five gewogs located across Punatsangchhu cross the bridge to get to Khuruthang and beyond. With the completion of the 8.6km Bajo-Khuru road blacktopping two years ago, most people use the bridge to travel between Wangdue and Punakha. 

According to the letter, monitoring heavy vehicle traffic over the bridge, built more than 20 years ago, continues to be difficult. However, the office has requested the police and the Bhutan Construction and Transport Authority for help and cooperation in monitoring and restricting the traffic of heavy vehicles over the bridge exceeding its load capacity.

The construction of a pre-stressed concrete rigid frame cantilever-type bridge on the Bajothang-Khuruthang secondary highway is underway. 

The new 100-metre bridge is located about 25 metres upstream from Khuru Kuenphen Bridge.