A new look for the Bridge of Prophesy

A new look for the Bridge of Prophesy

The ministry of infrastructure and transport (MoIT) has several proposals and projects under its belt, one of which is redesigning the historic Lungtenzampa bridge, also known as the “Bridge of Prophesy.” This would include improving the junction of the bridge, corridor specific movements, new facilities for walking and wheeling around centers, amongst others.

Transport planner from the department of human settlement (DHS), MoIT, Deki Wangmo shared that congestions occur at various junctions in the city core such as the Lungtenzampa bridge with multiple trip generators in the same vicinity, which includes Norzin Lam, the multi-storey car parks, and the petrol station.

In addition, Deki Wangmo said that vehicles from Babesa-Thimphu Expressway must traverse this bottleneck to reach their destination, creating considerable congestion. “It poses high risk to pedestrians crossing or walking along the road.”

To address these issues, the review of Thimphu structure plan (TSP) and the city centeraction plan (CCAP) as well as its priority project on low emissions transport master plan (LETMP) proposes a redesign of the vehicular circulation in the bridge’s area, potentially including a new bridge at the Chogyal Lam and conversion of the existing bridge into a dedicated pedestrian and cycle facility.

“This will greatly improve walking access in the area, particularly to key generators such as the secondary school on the eastern side of Babesa-Thimphu Expressway, the Olympic grounds, and Norzin Lam on the western side of the bridge,” Deki said.

Meanwhile, together with the bridge’s up gradation, there are also plans for the creation of a pedestrian and cycle friendly greenway along Wangchhu (river) and a potential revival of the old LungtenZam (pedestrian footbridge) to connect to the Olympic ground.

Deki Wangmo said that the traditional bridge can be rebuilt to provide a pedestrian and cycle link between the western and eastern central city parks. She shared that the existing crossing facilities at junctions such as the northern and southern ends of Norzin Lam, Lungten Zam bridge and Memorial Chorten are extremely unfriendly to pedestrians and result in vehicular-pedestrian conflicts.

As a result, the ministry has proposed pedestrian crossings where possible so as to reduce such risks and challenges for the pedestrians. “These nodes on the pedestrian network expect a large volume of pedestrians to cross the roads, therefore, signalization is also recommended on safety grounds,” Deki said.

According to the ministry, the capital cost and the operation and management cost will be very high and the implementation period will be a medium term between the years 2025-2030.

Several years since its construction, people continue to report that the existing Lungtenzampa Bridge has defects. When rain is heavy, rainwater is captured at the sunken parts of the bridge and dirty stagnant water is splashed to pedestrians by passing vehicles.

In addition congestion is observed around the bridge as it is the main bridge in the center of the city during peak hours.The congestion is caused mainly because of crisscrossing traffic between the Expressway ramps and adjoining two streets of Norzin Lam and Dzongchoten Lam.

There is a large inflow of student pedestrians during peak hours, posing danger of accidents with pedestrians. Therefore, high demand exists for the renovation of this bridge. The existing bridge was built by India several years ago as a Bhutan-India Friendship Bridge. In 2004, a study was conducted by a Swiss engineer on the renewal of the bridge. This was followed in 2005, when a study by a Japanese engineering company (Keikan Gijyutu Center Ltd.) on the external appearance of the renewed bridge was done.

The bridge has historic significance for Bhutan and its name Lungtenzampa means the “Bridge of Prophecy.” in Bhutan. The name of this bridge is credited to the story of Lam Phojo Drukgom Zhigpo and his consort Sonam Peldon.

It is said that when Lam Phajo arrived in the valley of Wang, he saw a group of girls on the other side of the Wang Chhu river and the lama started to sing a song to recognize his consort. A young and beautiful girl stood up and answered the lama’s song.

They acknowledged each other but as there was no bridge over the river they couldn’t meet and went on exchanging their songs alongside the river. Finally, they met each other at a bridge at present-day Lungtenzampa.

As the motor road came in 1960s the old traditional bridge was replaced by a bailey bridge. It was again upgraded to an extended concrete bridge in 1995.

Sherab Dorji from Thimphu