The former Public Works Minister M. Vijayakumar has urged the State government to start work on a new bridge across the Karamana river at Kundamankadavu.

In a press note here on Sunday, Mr. Vijayakumar said the 112-year-old bridge had turned into to a hazard for vehicular traffic. He said the previous Left Democratic Front government had sanctioned Rs.9.25 crore in March 2009 for building the new bridge. “Land acquisition procedures were initiated and the tendering process was set in motion when the Government's tenure ended,” he said.

Mr. Vijayakumar said the present government had failed to follow up the project. “Land acquisition has come to a standstill and the tendering process has reached nowhere. With thousands of vehicles plying on the bridge daily, the government has to overcome its inertia and start work on the bridge immediately,” he said.

On the Thiruvananthapuram-Kattakada route, the steel-suspension bridge dates back to 1898. Years of neglect and heavy traffic have taken a toll on the bridge, which provides a vital link between the city and the suburbs.

Long-pending demand

Various political parties and mass organisations have organised agitations demanding the construction of a new bridge. Local people want the existing structure to be retained as a monument.

The narrow bridge can hardly accommodate two vehicles side by side. Very often, vehicles jump the signal lights installed at either end, leading to long traffic snarls often extending up to Peyad and Valiyavila.

In 2004, the government issued an order for the construction of a new bridge with assistance from the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). A subsequent proposal to construct a new bridge with assistance from the World Bank was also not followed up.

Local people point out that illegal sand-mining from the river had exposed the foundations of the bridge, further weakening the structure. Bridge engineers say that chloride contamination and alkali aggregate reaction has also caused slow deterioration of the steel structure.

A majority of the bridges in the city were built in the pre-Independence era. While even modern building techniques using sophisticated equipment and pre-stressed concrete do not guarantee a lifespan of more than 100 years, quite a few of the bridges in the city have crossed the century mark.

The Kundamankadavu bridge is the oldest in the city. The three-span Maruthankuzhy bridge, the second oldest, was reconstructed some years ago.

The third oldest bridge at Vallakadavu is awaiting reconstruction.