Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam on Monday said the Padma Multipurpose Bridge will be opened to traffic anytime close to June 30 next year, fulfilling the long-cherished dream of the people from southern and southwestern districts.
He came up with the information at a press conference after the weekly Cabinet meeting.
The cabinet secretary said the project has so far seen 87 percent progress.
The very challenging mega project witnessed a giant leap once the installation of all the steel-truss spans completed on December 10 last year.
The bridge’s first completion deadline was set at December 2018 in line with the contract with China Major Bridge Engineering Company (CMBEC). But it was extended on several occasions.
Now, the present deadline is June 30, 2022 as the project faced a setback due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The government hopes that it will be possible to complete the project work within this timeframe as installation of all roadway and railway slabs has been completed as well.
A total of 2,917 road slabs have been installed on the bridge. The roadway will be up to 22 metres in length and 2-2.15 metres in width.
Earlier on June 20 this year, the installation of railway slabs ended.
The final asphalt paving on the roadway of the bridge began on November 10 last. Earlier, the Chinese contractor started the carpeting work on roadway slabs in September on an experimental basis.
The double-decker Padma Bridge is being constructed by Bangladesh Bridge Authority at a cost of Tk 301.93 billion. The bridge’s top deck will be dedicated for road transport and the lower deck for rail connectivity.
In December 2015, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction of the main bridge.
The project work started in December 2014 and the first span was installed on September 30, 2017.
The mega infrastructure became fully visible on December 10 last year with the installation of the last span.
Despite a quick progress in site selection, making design ready and mobilising foreign funds, the project faced a serious setback after a financing tussle with the World Bank over a graft allegation raised by the lender in late June 2012.
Finally, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina decided not to take foreign money for the project and launched it with own resources.
After an open bidding, CMBEC was awarded the contract of the main bridge while another Chinese firm Sinohydro Corporation got river training work.
Construction of the main bridge started in November 2014, while the river training work started in December the same year even though land acquisition, construction of link roads and rehabilitation work started earlier.
The construction work suffered a heavy blow in 2017 when a soft soil problem hindered the piling work of 22 piers, which was resolved later after foreign consultants were called in.
A major change was made in the piling design for these piers and the whole piling work ended in March this year. The technical difficulties consumed a year.
With the launch of the bridge, communications with 21 southern and southwestern districts will be easier.
The 6.15-km bridge is Bangladesh's largest infrastructure project to date. Once in operation, the bridge is expected to boost the GDP by 1.2 percent.