Despite plans being ready for a new 1.2-km cable-stayed Zuari bridge in the year 2005, the state is still caught in two minds about what to do about the bridge, whether to use its own funds and construct it or seek central assistance for its construction.
And with the time running out fast, we could be faced with a situation as was faced by the then chief minister, Mr Pratapsingh Rane, wherein he had to issue orders to get plans ready for a temporary steel bridge to be built within one year as a stop gap arrangement, the technical experts feel.
"The government does not want to displease anybody," allege the experts and common man while the officials and Chief Minister and the PWD Minister say that "the toll is the main bone of contention" between the Centre and state to finalise the bridge.
The contract for the highway expansion has already been handed over to IRB Infrastructure some time back.
However, it is their considered opinion that the Centre would not agree to waiving of the toll in some form or the other.
Sources say that the government had de facto handed over all but 17 km from Cortalim to Harbour and 20 km of NH 17B from Verna to Borim to the NHAI as a policy decision as far back as 2005.
The plans for a new state-of the-art 1.2 km long cable-stayed Zuari bridge were ready by the year 2004-5 with the Centre having paid around Rs 1 crore to a consultant, Span Consultants.
The estimate at that time was Rs 225 crore while the estimates today will touch Rs 500 crore. All drawings, details and plans are with the PWD.
State officials argue that these are main arterial routes, not separate highways, but the Centre is not ready to listen. Another argument is that if these were new links then the toll would be justified, but as this is about improving existing roads, the common man cannot be made to suffer.
Sources say that the state government has the money or has to arrange for it, as it has the knowhow, plans, everything to get a new bridge ready. Also nowadays consultants are available who take care of all details, they say.
PWD officials say that cable-stayed bridge or a steel bridge are the only options; but add that the only problem is that a steel bridge like the Konkan Railway one requires regular maintenance.
"The government has to take a call, toll or no toll. There is no guarantee on pre-stressed bridges. That is why the PWD had issued a ban after the Mandovi bridge collapsed. In the hinterland it is still okay. But on the coastal belt, it is a total no no," highly place sources inform, adding that if not the government could be faced with a scenario like in the past.
According to the sources the then chief minister as far back as 2005 had asked a government technical department to prepare an estimate for a steel bridge after fears were raised about the safety of the Zuari bridge after cracks were seen.
The project report was prepared and consultant was appointed and everything was ready when ultimately government decided against and the order was subsequently cancelled in 2007. Consultant was paid Rs 28 lakh.