East-West highway to be completed by 2018
By Kinley Yonten
The first stretch of 65 kilometer of Northern East-West Highway from Simtokha to Wangdue was inaugurated on June 28.
The Foreign Minister, Damcho Dorji and the Works and Human Settlement Minister, Dorji Choden inaugurated the 65-kilometre Simtokha-Wangdue upgraded highway at Semtokha.
Widening and up-gradation work on 510km East-West Highway, which connects Thimphu to Trashigang started at the end of 2014. The lateral highway, which stretches from Simtokha to Trashigang, was accorded top priority by the government and included as a new activity in the 11th Plan. It is often described as a vital transport link of the country.
Lyonpo Dorji Choden said, “The road which starts from Simtokha to Wangdue Zam is the main trunk road which goes to central districts and then it goes further to the east.” She added that the widening works in the remaining stretches are in process.
“Widening is almost done and now our contractors are working on the pavement, retaining walls, drainage, and so these will also be blacktopped.” She said.
Earlier single lane road, which had an average width of 3.50m and catered to a traffic volume of 150 vehicles a day, the bridges were mostly short span bridges of low loaded carrying capacity, the new stretch is double landed and 7.5m wide. The traffic volume of the up-graded road is 2000 – 2500 vehicles a day.
However, there were issues related to quality of work, damages to the environment and even disruption to the community of their water sources.
To this, Lyonpo Dorji Choden, said the criticism helped them to improve standard of work and quality, and also to extent what techniques to be used in road construction.
“It is not easy on the hilly road where mountains come down, where streams become flashfloods and sometime you have adverse condition like Dochula where it freezes in winter and summer is very difficult with rain,” she said.
She added that people must understand the difficulties that are being faced and understand how much government is investing in road.
“Poor condition of road has been blamed for the low tourist arrival in the east,” Foreign minister Damcho Dorji said.
He added that tourism is one of the important pillars of economy and eastern Bhutan is one of the least explored regions in the country.
The project would cost about Nu 7 Billion. The widening and up-gradation work on the highway was launched by the Indian President Pranab Mukherji on November 8, 2014 at the Tashicho-dzong.
The Government of India is financing the project while he Japan International Cooperation Agency is supporting in bridge construction.
The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank are supporting the project with environmental friendly construction techniques.