Roads: Although expected to commence last month, road widening works on the 49km Trashigang (Kheri)-Yadhi highway kicked off yesterday from the zero point at Yadhi.

Project DANTAK started work on the first 12.9km segment of the stretch from Yadhi towards Trashigang.  A budget of Nu 339.6M (million) has been approved.

Commander N Balamurugan said work didn’t commence as expected because they were setting up a new road construction company (64 RCC) at Kanglung to monitor the activities.

“We were also mobilising resources and manpower for proper sustenance of the widening works once it begins,” he said.

According to the officer commanding (OC) of 64 RCC, Kumar Jayant, the first activity would be the formation cutting, followed by cementation works.

“Cementation works would primarily involve construction of protection walls along the hilly sides, culverts and the drainage system,” he said. “Currently, two excavators have been deployed but more machines would arrive in the following weeks.”

Unlike in the past, where road-widening work disrupted water supply to villages, Commander N Balamurugan ruled out the possibilities of such incidents this time.

“Whenever we carry out construction in and around settlements, we inform the department of roads (DoR) and the local administration well in advance to shift the pipelines,” he said.

But excavation work, coupled with the monsoon, could pose problems.

Chief engineer with the DoR regional office in Trashigang, Karma Wangdi, said widening works along the stretch should be comparatively easier than similar activities happening in other areas.

“There aren’t many rocky terrains along the highway and it shouldn’t pose any difficulty,” he said.

Even roadblocks wouldn’t last for more than five minutes, given the minimal risks of falling boulders during excavations, project DANTAK officials said.  Also, traffic flow along the stretch isn’t much.

With project DANTAK adopting new technologies for construction of pavements in the west, the project is also likely to incorporate similar technologies for the highway widening, which is subject to approval from higher authorities.

The Trashigang-Yadhi highway is a part of the ongoing northern east-west highway widening project, which, when complete, is expected to reduce travel time from Thimphu to Trashigang by a day.  Today, it takes two days.

The highway will also have upgraded specifications of a primary highway.  For instance, the existing black topping on the road is only about 2.5cm thick, which will now be increased to 9cm.

The total width of the road will be increased from the prevailing 6.5m (on an average) to 10.5m.   The actual area of black topping on the road is about 3.75m wide currently.  This would be further widened to 6.5m.

Divided into four packages, the widening works are expected to complete by March 31, 2018.

However, project DANTAK and the ministry of works and human settlement are yet to sign the memorandum of understanding, which means, DoR has not officially handed over the road to DANTAK.

Tshering Wangdi,  Trashigang