British-era Amrutanjan Bridge pulled down

Breaking it down: The iconic Amrutanjan Bridge, which crossed over the Mumbai-Pune Expressway, was demolished on Sunday evening.  

The nearly 190-year-old Amrutanjan Bridge was demolished on Sunday evening through multiple controlled blasts. The British-era bridge had been in a state of disuse for several years, but had become an iconic structure for motorists using the Mumbai-Pune Expressway.

The Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) had started drilling into the piers to fit explosives on Sunday morning. MSRDC chief engineer Dilip Ukirde said holes had been drilled in 15 to 20 locations on each of the six piers. With simultaneous detonation, the bridge was brought down at 6.20 p.m..

The bridge was opened on November 10, 1830, as a key connector between Mumbai and Pune. It had later served as the third line for the Railways on the Bor ghat section to reverse engines, but was later stopped after more power engines were introduced. While the MSRDC had received permission from agencies to demolish the bridge in 2017, the high volume of traffic on the expressway gave them no window to execute this project.

Mr. Ukride said a few days after the lockdown was announced, they sought permissions to pull it down. He said they already had men and material in the vicinity on account of the ‘Missing Links’ project of the expressway. The demolition was carried out by Navayuga Engineering, which is building the tunnels for the ₹5,300 crore project.

By late last week they had all the permissions. “We had two major constraints while demolishing the structure — one was traffic, which was not possible to be diverted to the old highway, and the other was space. The location of the bridge made it difficult to get material to the place and back,” Mr. Ukride said.

While the bridge had been pulled down, the plaque commemorating the opening of the bridge has been preserved. “We will be keeping it for the time being at our operational centre at Lonavala and will decide on a permanent location. At present, our focus is on completing the work,” Mr. Ukride said.

The MSRDC will clear the rubble along with stones in the coming week and also fix any damage that may have been caused to the expressway.

Mr. Ukride said with the bridge gone, the lanes would be slightly wider and most crucially would add an element of safety. “Due to the thick pillars, there was a partial blind spot that was created at the turning, which was a safety hazard. Now there will be a clearer vision of the road.” The bridge got its name due to a massive advertisement hoarding of the popular balm Amrutanjan at the location.

An MSRDC official said, “The lockdown looked like the perfect time to raze the bridge and after a meeting with Raigad Collector Nidhi Chaudhary, we went ahead.”

After the permission for the demolition was granted on March 31, the highway safety patrol (HSP) announced a traffic diversion from April 4 to 14. The Pune-bound vehicles were diverted to kilometre number 44, also known as Anda point, through Khandala and Lonavala. The traffic toward Mumbai was diverted to kilometre number 55 at Lonavala exit via Lonavala and Khandala, and later to join the expressway at Anda point.

“The traffic jam at the spot can be avoided now. The wide pillars of the bridge had caused a steep turn due to which vehicles travelling to Mumbai were bound to meet with accidents daily. At least one minor mishap used to occur every day. On the other hand, the uphill climb on the Pune lane used to cause heavy traffic jam,” police inspector Sudam PAchorkar, Panvel Unit (HSP), said.

Mr. Pachorkar said the diversion of vehicles would be called off before April 14 if the clearing of the debris was done before that.

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Printable version | Mar 9, 2021 11:58:36 AM |

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