… following a bearing and two metal plates coming out of place

Infrastructure: A bearing placed between the deck and the concrete embankment on the north end of the Wangdue bridge has come out since the afternoon of February 18.

The bearing allows for slight horizontal movements of the bridge and plays no role in bearing loads. It is a component of the bridge that provides a resting surface between the bridge’s piers and the bridge’s deck.

Following the discovery, heavy vehicles carrying loads are being directed to use the Punakha route while only light vehicles and heavy vehicles without load are being permitted onto the Wangdue bridge.

Officials with the Department of Roads (DoR) in Lobesa said it was initially spotted by a road engineer who was measuring the newly paved road below Wangdue Dzong on February 18. After seeing a piece of metal below the bridge, the engineer investigated and found that one of two plates and a bearing had come out.

Two DoR engineers and three workers have been working on the bridge since the evening of February 18. By afternoon yesterday, a team of six engineers from Thimphu had joined them to reinsert the bearing and investigate why it came out in the first place.

DoR officials managed to reinsert the bearing on the evening of February 18 and they were using a hydraulic jack to lift the bridge yesterday. The bearing is only around four inches in diameter.

The bridge was lifted 30mm with the hydraulic jack to place the plate and bearing properly, DoR engineers said. “We are expecting it to be restored by tomorrow,” said works and human settlement secretary, Phuntsho Wangdi.

“The bearing could have come out due to repeated vibration caused by too many heavy vehicles plying back and forth on that particular bridge for years,” he said.

The secretary said there is no safety risk. DoR engineers from Lobesa and Thimphu are working together to place back the bearing, he said.

With heavy vehicles being diverted some expressed worry that the bridge might have developed cracks. DoR officials dismissed the information.

The Wangdue bridge was built in 2002 with financial support from the Swiss government. Swiss engineers designed the bridge.

Dawa Gyelmo, | Wangdue