Bombay: At one of central Mumbai’s busiest east-west crossings in Dadar, a group of workers quietly work the sidewalk, moving utility lines underground for a new bridge. On both sides, the central and western line commuter trains continue to run uninterrupted.
Over the railroad tracks, a creaking steel girder bridge, built in 1925, supports the weight of the city’s vehicles and pedestrians. This is Mumbai’s iconic British-built Tilak Bridge, which over the years has grown to become one of the city’s largest and busiest east-west connectors.
However, the old viaduct, now worn and insecure, will soon be razed to make way for two new cable-stayed bridges.
Tilak Bridge is the first of 12 British era bridges that the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is rebuilding with the Maharashtra Rail Infrastructure Development Corporation (MRIDC).
Rajesh Kumar Jaiswal, Managing Director of MRIDC, told ThePrint: âThe normal lifespan of steel girder bridges is 100 years, not more, and many of these bridges are over 100 years old.
Jaiswal also said the company will try to build the new bridges before demolishing the old one to keep traffic as little as possible.
âWhenever possible, we try to build a new bridge first and then demolish the old one so that traffic is not affected. This is what we are trying to do for the Tilak Bridge. Where shorter spans are not possible due to lack of space or the movement of traffic, we are building cable-stayed bridges, âJaiswal said, adding that about five of the 12 bridges replaced will be cable-stayed.
As the MRIDC has started to relocate utility lines, actual construction of the new Tilak Bridge and Reay Road Bridge will begin in November.
The remaining 10 bridges at Ghatkopar, Byculla (Byculla Upper Bridge and S Bridge), Mazgaon, Mahalaxmi, Arthur Road, Lower Parel, Belasis Road, Currey Road and Matunga Labor Camp are in various stages of planning and development. ‘approval.
The MRIDC hopes to complete construction of at least three of them – the Tilak Bridge, the Reay Road Bridge and the Byculla Upper Bridge – by 2023.
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Preparation for the reconstruction of hundred-year-old bridges
Most of these bridges cross railroads, are in extremely busy areas, and experience high traffic density every day. Tearing them down before building a new one could cripple Mumbai’s already slow traffic.
Therefore, when planning the new bridges, the MRIDC decided to work against the infrastructural standard of planning the length and width of the bridge according to traffic requirements.
Instead, the company studied the terrain realities of the area to come up with potential options for building a new bridge without razing the old one first.
âWe first did a drone survey of the whole area, measuring the horizontal and vertical distances, recording every component on the site and so on to decide on the size and length of the bridge as well as aspects such as the place where we can build the column, âJaiswal said.
âWe mapped underground utilities to a depth of five meters. After that, we finalized the most feasible location for the bridges, âhe added.
For example, at Tilak Bridge, the MRIDC decided to build two three-lane 600-meter bridges on either side of the existing four-lane structure with a single pillar between the central and western railway lines in order to disrupt the traffic. less possible commuter rail traffic.
The new bridges to replace the Tilak Bridge will cost Rs 375 crore.
The MRIDC will use a similar approach to build a new railway bridge in Byculla, without dismantling the existing structure and without hindering traffic.
The Reay Road Bridge, however, will have to be demolished first to make way for the new one, Jaiswal said.
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Mumbai has over 300 old and new bridges which are maintained by at least five different agencies.
For bridges built by the British, the British government usually sends a letter reminding the authorities of the government of Maharashtra that the bridge is approaching the end of its life and needs to be restored.
The Mumbai civic body has received such letters for some of the 12 bridges that will be restored, said a city official, who declined to be named.
The plan to rebuild the 12 colonial-era bridges gained momentum after a pedestrian bridge in Andheri collapsed on the Western Railway Lines in 2018.
The Western and Central Railways and the BMC then decided to study structural stability of all Mumbai bridges after the accident with the help of experts from the Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay.
Following the audit, the BMC entrusted the reconstruction work of the 12 bridges to the MRIDC, a joint venture between the Ministry of Railways and the government of Maharashtra, incorporated in July 2018.
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