Alongside Wednesday’s Supreme Court verdict on the 118-year-old Mullaperiyar Dam has resurfaced the ‘raze or not to raze the dam’ debate, but another British-era engineering marvel two years younger and in use 24/7 is on the threshold of ‘retirement.’
Once it is replaced by a new bridge this year, the Kundamankadavu Bridge on the Thiruvananthapuram-Kattakkada route will be closed to motor traffic, PWD officials said. The steel-suspension bridge which was built in 1898 will not be dismantled, but it will be used for laying water supply pipes and other utilities across the Karamana River.
‘’The old bridge is in good condition structurally, but once the new bridge is opened it will be closed down. The new bridge coming up nearby will have a 7.5 metre-wide carriageway, ample for two-way traffic. It will also have footpaths on either side,’’ a top PWD official said. The new bridge is expected to be opened by August 2014.
Its older cousin, built as an east-west link within Travancore, is 48 metres long but only five metres in width, making it sadly unequal to the task of handling modern-day rush-hour traffic. Traffic snarls are a regular sight here during peak hours. ‘’We have not conducted any traffic survey recently, but our assumption is that nearly one lakh vehicles use this bridge daily. Majority are two-wheelers,’’ the PWD official said.
The bridge was constructed during the reign of Sree Moolam Thirunal Rama Varma, changing forever the way trade and transportation was organised in those times, says historian and journalist Malayinkeezhu Gopalakrishnan.
‘’Transportation was mostly through the waterways back then. This bridge changed all that. It ushered in development in the rural regions. Travancore had very developed engineering at the time,’’ Gopalakrishnan said.
Meanwhile, work on the new bridge is progressing next to the old one. Coming up at a cost of Rs 9.78 crore, it already has one span in place. The remaining two spans will be completed soon, PWD officials said.