Less than four months after resurfacing work, potholes have developed all over the western side of the Kundanoor-Thevara bridge

The picturesque islands around mainland Ernakulam would have been jewels in the crown of the city, but for the hefty toll that motorists are doomed to pay perpetually for using bridges en route.

People travelling from Aroor to Willingdon Island have to pay toll over two bridges – Aroor-Kumbalam bridge and Kundanoor-Thevara bridge. A short detour from the island to Thopumpady means further levy of toll – for using the Mattancherry BOT bridge.

The about-one-kilometre-long Kundanoor-Thevara bridge was built along NH 47-A by Hindustan Construction Company at a cost of Rs. 58.50 crore in January 2000, a year before the Mattancherry bridge was commissioned. Very soon, problems associated with black topping caused undulations all over the bitumen layer, slowing down traffic and resulting in accidents. The expansions joints too began to give trouble, resulting in an extremely bumpy ride for motorists.

The PWD (NH wing) took about a decade to repair the bridge surface and replace the joints. The work was done early this year, after restricting traffic movement for about two months.

However, potholes have surfaced at a few places. Rusting street light poles have not been replaced and intermittent white lines are yet to be drawn through the centre of the carriageway, to ensure that motorists keep to their lane.

Toll collected

An amount of Rs. 13.85 crore has been collected as toll ever since it was imposed in May 2001, according to PWD’s official records. And as per an order dated June 12, 2008, toll collection will be perpetual – as long as the bridge exists.

On whether the toll collection was audited, an official said there was no specific auditing, though the auditing team was free to inspect toll-receipt details.

Is the toll based on traffic census of vehicles that use the stretch, the number of which is increasing as the days pass by? “Each year, a week-long survey is done to assess the number of vehicles. This was given the go this year, because repair works were underway,” said sources in the PWD (NH wing).

Repair works

The resurfacing work over the bridge was done at a cost of Rs.3.09 crore by Basil Associates, while replacing problematic expansion joints, painting and allied works done by S and G Engineers cost Rs.5.39 crore. The works have a one year guarantee, sources said.

Less than four months after the resurfacing work, potholes have developed all over the western side of the bridge. This forces motorists to swerve to avoid them, despite the potential risk of ramming into vehicles coming from the opposite side.

Back in 2008, the PWD had submitted a Rs.72-lakh project to the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways for resurfacing the bridge. Alleged delay by the Ministry in handing over funds steeply escalated the cost, besides causing misery to bridge users.

“The massive amount spent on resurfacing works not withstanding, small water pools are seen at many places on the bridge. This shows that problems persist with the drainage system and the works did not outlive even the first rainy season after major repair works,” said Neena S., a commuter. The bus stop at the bridge’s centre often held up vehicles, she said.

Paul Titus, another commuter, wondered why the PWD took so many years together to repair the bridge that was in horrible condition. “There was no let up in toll collection though, all through these years. Care must be taken to ensure that repairs are carried out in a prompt manner, so that the bridge is safe for travel.”

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