Padma Bridge opening on June 25: Countdown to dream come true
Speculation over when the Padma bridge would open has come to an end, and the countdown to the long-awaited day that the country's longest bridge will be open to traffic has begun.
The public can start using the 6.15-kilometre bridge that will connect the capital with the south-western regions from June 25 -- just 31 days away.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the bridge at 10:00am on the day, fulfilling the decades-long desire of the people, particularly those from the southern districts.
The PM yesterday fixed the date, which was announced by Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader around 1:00pm.
The minister along with top government officials had met the prime minister at the Gono Bhaban earlier in the day, when she signed the summary setting the date of inauguration.
Hasina rejected a proposal to name bridge after her. The bridge will instead be named the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Quader said.
Once in service, the bridge will connect the capital with 21 southwestern districts by road and railway, providing relief to tens of thousands who often face hardships while travelling across the river, especially around of major festivals.
The double-decker bridge -- a four-lane road on top and broad-gauge single rail track on the bottom -- is expected to boost the country's gross domestic product by 1.2 percent.
SPECULATION OVER OPENING DATE OVER
Since installation of the last span of the bridge in December 2020, Quader and other top officials have been saying that the bridge would be opened in June this year.
But Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina last month told parliament that the bridge, being built under a Tk 30,193 project, would be opened at the end of the year.
Despite this, different officials continued saying that it would be opened by June, with Quader saying on May 11: "As a minister, after being briefed properly, I am saying the bridge will be opened next month."
And when the Bridge Division issued a circular announcing the toll rates for the bridge on May 17, the notion that the bridge would open sooner rather than later gained strength.
Other than June 25, the ruling Awami League's founding anniversary on June 23 also entered speculations, but Quader had ruled it out recently.
RIVER DETERMINES NAME
AL leaders on several occasions had demanded that the bridge, which is being built with the country's own funding following the directive of Sheikh Hasina, be named after her.
The Bridges Division earlier sent a formal proposal in this regard but the PM rejected it. The division yesterday placed the same proposal before her.
"We have brought two summaries [for the PM]. She signed one setting the inauguration date on June 25. But she did not sign another summary, regarding naming the bridge," Quader told reporters in front of the Gono Bhaban.
"She [PM] told us the name of the Padma bridge would be named after the Padma river. She did not want to give any one's name here," the minister said.
She said the bridge wound not be named after anyone from Bangabandhu's family, he added.
PREPARATION FOR INAUGURATION STARTED
The Bridges Division has formed over a dozen committees to prepare for a gala event marking the inauguration of the bridge.
Project authorities are working at full tilt to complete installing guardrails, marking the road and connecting the bridge to the power grid.
"We will complete all these works within June 15-20," Project Director Shafiqul Islam told The Daily Star yesterday.
The work for building murals of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Sheikh Hasina on both sides of the bridge and the inauguration plaque is also going on, officials said.
Although a test of the bridge's lights would be carried out later this month, it would take till around June 20 to complete the entire works, they said.
The process to release a commemorative coin and issue a postal stamp to mark the opening is also underway, Bridges Division Secretary Monjur Hossain, who accompanied Quader at Gono Bhaban, told this correspondent.
Quader, also the Awami League general secretary, said the prime minister will take part in rallies at the Mawa end and the Janjira end on the inauguration day.
Asked whether they will invite the BNP at the inauguration ceremony, the minister said they will invite all.