Lebukhali bridge over the Payra river finally opens to traffic today (Sunday), marking an epoch-making development of a road network in southern districts.
With the opening, Dhaka-Mawa-Faridpur-Barisal-Patuakhali highway will have a direct road link with Kuakata sea beach and Payra port establishments.
The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) earlier constructed five bridges over Laukathi, Kirtankhola, Andharmanik, Sonatola and Khagravanga rivers to remove five ferry services on the Barishal-Patuakhali highway.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the 1.47-kilometre bridge through videoconferencing from Gonobhaban at 11:00 am.
Road transport and bridges minister Obaidul Quader and road secretary Nazrul Islam will join there.
The PM will also announce the opening of Dhaka-Sylhet and Sylhet-Tamabil four-lane projects, which are now at the bidding stage, during the same programme.
RHD chief engineer Mohammad Abdus Sobur said building work took more than speculated time, but the contractor could save Tk 522 million from the contract price.
He said the bridge will be utilised more after the inauguration of the Padma Bridge when southerners would be able to go directly to Dhaka and elsewhere.
"The bridge is expected to bring a significant change in the movement of the people and contribute to tourism and economic activity," he told the FE over the phone.
The RHD undertook the Payra bridge project in 2012 as per the premier's commitment after she visited the area on February 25.
But the project took time in selecting consultants and bidders to start the work.
Chinese firm Longjian Road and Bridge Company got the job on 24 July 2016 but it took time to start due to a fault found in the design of the bridge in 2018.
The project was revised twice, the first in 2015 doubling the cost from the estimated cost of Tk 4.57 billion in 2012.
According to the RHD, the revision was needed as the soil level of the Payra river was found different from the one mentioned in the study.
Finally, the project cost was increased to Tk 14.47 billion for revising the design of the bridge having 19.75-metre width and 1.26-km approach road with extra dosed cable.
Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) and OPEC Fund for International Development are the financiers of the project.