Plans to restore the bridge have not made much headway, said highways officials

The old Elphinstone Bridge across the Adyar river is sporting a new look.

The highways department has whitewashed one side of the old bridge that is situated alongside the Thiru Vi Ka bridge. “We were giving finishing touches to the new three-lane bridge that has been constructed next to the one that is under use presently. We thought the old bridge too should be spruced up a bit. Otherwise, it looks ugly standing next to freshly painted structure. We cannot paint the other side as for that we would need scaffolding and it would take time,” said a source in the highways department.

The 11-metre wide Elphinstone Bridge has concrete slabs covering the sewer pipelines running over it. “The full width of the bridge is covered with the slabs. A flight of stairs is located on either side of the bridge that is used by a few pedestrians.

However, there is some gap between the steps and the slab through which people can enter and anti-social elements use this space. This has to be prevented. A park or bus bay should come up in the approaches to the old bridge. That would help prevent encroachments and misuse of the space,” said a flower vendor.

Plans to restore the old bridge by setting up a bird-watching spot along with a garden were part of the phase-II of restoration of the Adyar river estuary. However, with only 58 acres that come under phase-I having been completed, the plan seems to have been put in cold storage, said a source.

According to historian K.R.A Narasiah, the bridge was built during the time of Lord Elphinstone, who was Governor of Madras from 1837 to 42 and was the first to connect south Madras to Santhome and Mylapore. Before its construction, there were no bridges across the Adyar except the causeway that was called Marmalong Bridge. There used to be many makeshift landing places on the banks of the river which was used to carry goods.

The British identified the area between Santhome and the river as a good place for building their farmhouses. The development during the first half of the 19th century must have sparked the need to have a bridge built. Parisals or round floats pushed by long poles were the main mode of transportation across, he explained. The bridge was severely damaged during a cyclone between 1876 and 1878.

The Thiru Vi Ka Bridge, constructed at a cost of Rs. 58 lakh, was inaugurated in October 1973. It is 1025 ft long.

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