With Srinagar witnessing around seven percent annual growth in vehicular traffic, experts on Thursday opined the authorities should open the historic Zero Bridge for regular traffic to ease the vehicular congestion in the adjoining areas.
The iconic Bridge, which was recently vandalized by some miscreants, was developed by the then government in 2012 into a tourist attraction after expending a whopping Rs 11 crore.
But the plans have fallen flat as the Bridge, according to the experts, has not come up as attraction for the tourists.
The experts suggested utilising the Bridge for recreational purposes was “ill conceived” right from the beginning, and recommended it should be made motorable and thrown open for the vehicular traffic to end the traffic mess witnessed at the junction near Radio Station.
“Srinagar witnesses around seven percent annual growth in vehicular traffic. The city direly needs this bridge,” said an expert.
The erstwhile government of J&K after converting the Bridge into a tourism spot had started construction of other bridge few metres away from Abdullah Bridge.
But the construction work was stopped after J&K High Court took suo motto cognizance of a report in Greater Kashmir that the proposed bridge would encroach upon the famed Emporium Garden. Consequently, the construction of the proposed bridge was stopped.
An official said the actual plan mooted in 2012 was to reconstruct the Zero Bridge for vehicular traffic. “In view of its historic importance, it was decided that the Bridge will be renovated for Light Motor Vehicles,” said the official.
The Bridge has a timber pile-foundation. “We checked the piles and found them normal and safe,” he said. “There are around 25-30 piles in each foundation which were strengthened to facilitate vehicular movement over it.”
While the engineers were on job to make the Old Zero Bridge motorable for LMVs, then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed visited the site in September 2015 and directed the officials to make it a “historic picnic spot”. Consequently the earlier plan was shelved.
The Bridge is close to the high security Church Lane area, which housed the private office of then Chief Minister and state guest houses.
The Zero Bridge was constructed in early 50s when late Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad was the Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to a government report, Srinagar with annual population growth rate of two percent has registered a phenomenal increase in vehicular population during the last decade.
“Its vehicular traffic is increasing rapidly at more than seven percent per annum,” the report says.
Due to this rapid growth of vehicles vis-à-vis marginal increase in road infrastructure, the problems related to transportation have grown manifold, the report reads.
According to the report, traffic congestion is already severe on many city roads and the gridlock plaguing Srinagar has reached a tipping point.
The region spends millions of man hours in traffic congestion each year, reads the report.