A bridge is more than just a link between two sides. It becomes the saving grace for congested cities and eases traffic in all cases. It also becomes a crucial part of the city’s history as in the case of the Mahatma Gandhi Setu in Patna, Bihar.
Patna was a teeming, growing metropolis in the 1980s. The changing economic situation of the country made it a hub for factories, companies and migrant workers from around the country. Families moved in for better opportunities and the city welcomed them. The infrastructure had to be improved for letting the city grow and allowing its citizens a safe and smooth daily routine. Roads, flyovers, highways and a bridge to connect the city was built during this period. The bridge was called Mahatma Gandhi Setu connecting Patna to Hajipur.
It is the second largest bridge in India at 5,750 meters. The bridge also held the distinction of being India’s longest bridge till the Dhola Sadiya Bridge was constructed in 2017. The Gandhi Setu helped ease flow of traffic and reduce congestion by providing a link between north Bihar with the rest of the state. The Central Government approved the plans and construction for this technical wonder in 1969. Building a complicated structure over the beautiful and pious Ganges was no easy task. The work was completed in 1982 and the Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi inaugurated the Mahatma Gandhi Setu surrounded by many locals and residents.
As the population increased and vehicles became affordable, the bridge started getting packed in peak hours. Commuting to work, school and for personal purposes made the bridge see a lot of vehicular traffic. People started calling it the ‘lifeline of Patna.’ For city dwellers, safer roads, bridges are a high priority. The bridge was just the thing the city needed and it prospered initially. It reduced a travel time of hours to minutes. The Mahatma Gandhi Setu is also a part of a national highway, NH19.
The bridge is also a sight to behold with its long sleek lines perfect against the shimmering backdrop of the waters of Ganges. It is a part of the local history and has been recognized as such. In 2007, the Indian Postal Department issued a postage stamp on Landmark Bridges of India. You can find the Mahatma Gandhi Setu stamp among that collection.
Times have changed. The population of the 2000s burgeoned and it became increasingly difficult to maintain the bridge without spending serious money. The daily number of vehicles that pass the Mahatma Gandhi Setu is almost up to 85,000. Chaos reigns supreme during peak hours in the morning and evening. Reports of traffic accidents or damage to cars due to poor traffic management are very common.
Crores of rupees have been spent on repairing the once magnificent structure. It hangs in disarray with a weak foundation and shaky beams. Passengers undertake life-threatening risks when they choose to cross it today. The bridge was not designed with the future in mind. Engineers failed to take account that cars and pedestrians will increase which means an increase in load bearing. The people of Patna are clamoring for better infrastructure and the Government heeded their demands.
The Mahatma Gandhi Setu is finally being dismantled. The entire structure will be completely demolished, leaving no traces and triangular steel girders will be erected. According to reports, the dismantling process began in 2017 and is expected to be completed within the next 4 years. Government estimates the dismantling cost to be nearly Rs 237 crore. Now the city has various other bridges that allow the traffic to be regulated across them but once this bridge is fully complete, it will ease the city’s congestion to a massive extent.