The remaining widening and blacktopping works along the Trashigang-Samdrupjongkhar highway will be completed by next year, according to project DANTAK officials in Moshi, Wamrong.
More than a decade after the widening works began along the highway, frequent major roadblocks are a common feature along the stretch, especially during summer.
Although majority of the work along the 180km highway has been completed, the haul at the 49km stretch that begins from Narphung in Samdrupjongkhar till Kharungla in Trashigang has been a major concern for commuters.
DANTAK officials said that weather and difficult terrain are the major challenges that hamper the work progress along the stretch. “There is minimum work being done currently because of rainfall and foggy weather,” said an official.
The 49km stretch includes the infamous Melong-Brak that has not been excavated so far. “Excluding the widening works along the 2km Melong-Brak stretch, we should complete rest of the works by 2019,” the official said.
He said that of the total 10km that begin from kilometre six from Narphung town, widening works along 8km has been completed. “The blacktopping of the stretch would begin from October.”
However, given the high elevation of the Melong-Brak stretch and the narrowness of the road, the official said that excavation works would cause more disruption to the traffic.
“We are exploring an alternative route and possibilities of a tunnel bypass along through the stretch,” the official said. “However, these are at a very initial stage and nothing has been finalised yet.”
A tunnel bypass if established would connect commuters directly near the Pemagatshel junction.
Meanwhile, about 25km from the Pemagatshel junction till Wamrong town has not been widened so far. DANTAK officials said that the work is yet to be sanctioned.
Except for some 200ms, widening works along the 14km stretch from Wamrong town till Kharungla has been completed. “Blacktopping works along the stretch has been awarded to a Bhutanese contractor and works would begin by October,” said the official.
However, commuters are skeptic if the works would be completed in the next 24 months. “It has been more than 14 years since DANTAK began the works and we can see the progress,” said a taxi driver, Sonam. “It would take at least five more years if they continue at this pace.”
A businessman in Womrong, Tashi Dorji, said that even if the work is completed, journey along the highway would still be risky. “We can see the newly opened highways being blocked frequently. While we understand the difficulty involved, we would like to see our roads become safer,” he said. “DANTAK should first prioritise in making the highway safe for travellers.”
Younten Tshedup | Moshi