China / Society

Authority criticized for blocking access to bridge

By Tan Zongyang (China Daily) Updated: 2012-10-15 07:30

An authority in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region has come under fire for partially blocking access to a bridge that only recently scrapped its fees.

Motorists wanting to cross the Yellow River say they now have to travel 3 km to use a toll bridge built in 2010.

"It cost a large sum of money to build that bridge, and it's still in good condition, so why block it and make us detour to a new bridge that charges even more?" a driver surnamed Wang who lives nearby was quoted as saying by China Times.

Authority criticized for blocking access to bridge

Trucks pass through an abolished toll station at the south end of the Zhengzhou Yellow River Highway Bridge in Zhengzhou, capital city of Central China's Henan province, on Oct 9. Wang Zirui / for China Daily

The bridge, which connects the cities of Wuzhong and Qingtongxia and is part of a major highway through the region, became toll-free in July, as the Ministry of Transport called for bridges and highways that had covered construction costs to be made free.

However, the on and off ramps for nearby residents to access a special lane that crosses the Yellow River have been blocked. The nearest alternative cross-river bridge charges drivers 8 yuan ($1.30), almost double what the older bridge used to cost.

"The lanes are closed due to safety concerns, which is the top priority for public transportation," said a statement posted on the regional transport department's website on Saturday.

In the statement, the authority said around 23,000 vehicles pass over the older bridge every day, adding that the huge amount of traffic presents hidden safety dangers to vehicles and pedestrians traveling in the special lane.

"In the long-term interest, the side lanes of the bridge should be closed and merged into the main expressway to eliminate potential safety hazards," the statement said, adding that villagers can apply for favorable monthly payments for bridge tolls.

The incident has again underlined the problem of collecting tolls for maintenance and safeguarding the country's highway bridges.

Zhengzhou Yellow River Highway Bridge in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, abolished its toll stations since Oct 9 after charging tolls for 26 years.

Traffic on the 5,550-meter toll-free bridge has increased, raising safety concerns.

Heavy cargo carriers that were banned on the bridge were found passing through, as supervision suffered after the facilities at the toll gates were abandoned, Worker's Daily reported on Saturday.

The paper reported last month that the provincial traffic authority has warned that the bridge, which was build in 1986, has cracks on its body and needs to be strengthened and reinforced.

"Although the bridge has been exempt from tolls, it doesn't mean that the management should be weakened," said Yang Hongshan, deputy dean of Renmin University of China's institute of public governance.

Yang said that local governments should take responsibility for maintaining and inspecting the bridges.

According to Yang, China started large-scale construction of toll highways and bridges in the 1990s, and the management of those structures will be taken over by the government after two or three decades of public service.

Following the lead of the Yellow River in Zhengzhou, more highways and bridges will allow the public to pass for free after they have collected enough tolls to pay off construction costs and debt.

"As more bridges will be transferred from private sectors, the government should arrange more money to guarantee safety," he said.


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