The inauguration of the six-lane Kalna bridge over the Madhumati River in Norail has strengthened calls for the expansion of the one-lane Jashore-Norail road to four lanes.
If the road is not expanded enough to absorb additional traffic, transport workers and drivers say, there is likely to be heavy congestion and a greater risk of accidents.
The jump in traffic in the area once the bridge opens is incalculable, they said.
The Roads and Highways Department has promised to expand the road to two lanes, but expansion will not be complete by the time the bridge opens.
The road links from Jashore to the southern regions of the country will reach a new height with the new bridge, said Azizul Alam Mintu, president of the Jashore Transport Workers Association. But it will be improved further if the regional road network is also renovated, he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina plans to inaugurate the bridge in October, according to Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader. He said the bridge will be named the “Madhumati Bridge”.
For the people of Bangladesh’s southwest, the bridge is important for many reasons. Residents of a significant region have not been able to take full advantage of the benefits of the Padma Bridge without the completion of the Kalna bridge.
Once the bridge opens, the distance from Dhaka to Norail, Benapole, Jashore, Khulna, Satkhira and other nearby areas will be reduced by up to 150 km. It will also reduce travel time by an estimated four hours. The bridge, part of the Asian Highway Project, will eventually play a role in connecting the road network from Sylhet’s Tamabil to Dhaka, Benapole and even Kolkata.
But transport workers and others involved in the sector say that the people of the southwest will only be able to reap the full benefits of the bridge once the Jashore-Norail road is prepared properly.
The added traffic from the bridge’s construction will lead to added traffic pressure in the area and may increase the risk of traffic accidents.
As such, they have demanded that the roads in Norail, Benapole, Jashore, Khulna, Jhenaidah, Magura and nearby areas be expanded to four lanes.
“The six-lane bridge is being built based on our long-standing demand,” said transport worker leader Azizul. “We have heard that it will be opened soon. We call on the government to quickly expand the roads connected to the bridge and other roads in the region to four lanes.
Selim Reza Mithu, the general secretary at the Jashore Transport Workers Association, said, “We are happy to hear the Kalna bridge will be opened, but we are also a bit worried. A major reason is that the road connecting the bridge to Jashore only has a single lane.”
“Once the bridge is inaugurated, the traffic pressure will increase. In addition to more accidents, there will be heavier congestion, which will delay traffic.”
“In order for the people of the region to take full advantage of this infrastructure, we want the government to expand the road to four lanes all the way to Jashore.”
The issue of increased traffic on the Norail-to-Jashore road via Kalna bridge and other regional roads has been under discussion, according to Abul Kalam Azad, executive engineer of the Roads and Highways Department in Jashore.
The government called for tenders. In addition, Tk 350 million has been allocated to develop the 20 km of road from Norail’s Chanchra Intersection to Jashore’s Monihar Intersection. The job will be explained to the contractors within the next couple of months, Azad said.
“A proposal has been made to expand the 136-km road from Bhanga to Benapole to six lanes in accordance with the Padma Bridge and the development of the region’s roads. The proposal will be sent to the relevant agency for a final decision.”
On Jan 24, 2015, Hasina laid the foundation stone for the Kalna bridge over the Madhumati River. The total cost of the project amounted to Tk 9.60 billion.
The bridge, 690 metres long and 27.1 metres wide, is under construction with funds from Japan International Cooperation Agency, or JICA. It will be the first Nielsen-Lohse arch bridge in Bangladesh.