Mekong Delta Suspension Bridge Nears Completion

The Rach Mieu Bridge will be linked Wednesday, connecting Ben Tre and Tien Giang provinces in the Mekong Delta. Work on the bridge began after a ground-breaking ceremony on April 30, 2002 presided over by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai. Many revisions were made to plans as construction went along.

The Rach Mieu Bridge will be linked August 20 (Photo: SGGP)

Unlike the modern suspension bridges named My Thuan, Can Tho and Bai Chay, Rach Mieu was designed and built by Vietnamese with the domestic funds and Swiss technical assistance.
 
The Rach Mieu Bridge is the second suspension bridge in the delta. The My Thuan Bridge connects the two banks of the Hau River or Vinh Long Province and Can Tho City, was finished in 2000.
 
The bridge’s ups and downs
 
Nearly a year after the construction, the Rach Mieu project came to a standstill. Lack of experience in technical measurement and calculation was seen as one of the main reasons for this situation. Eventually, some Western experts were invited in to help with design and construction consulting.

However, the bridge’s biggest problems were financial. The cost of the project was almost VND600 billion (US$36 million), of which 25.8 percent would be subsidized by the government and the remaining 74.2 percent by contractors Cienco 5 and Cienco 6, both under the control of the Ministry of Transportation.

As of March 2003, almost a year after construction started, only the working path, working field, the abutment M58 on the Ben Tre side were completed. Work space on the Tien Giang bank was still not cleared.

Turning point

A turning point occurred after a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung early in 2004. Several changes were made, and work was accelerated.

The government decided to increase the construction fund from VND599.9 billion to VND696.5 billion (US$42 million), and raise its share of the subsidy to 40 percent from 25.8 percent. At the same time, another partner entered the joint venture. Cienco 1 became the principle contractor with a 51 percent share of the joint venture. The joint venture was responsible for 60 percent of expenses.

Further difficulties
 
Budget estimates for the project had been made in 2003, so then they had to be re-adjusted as prices rose. The prices for materials and fuel all increased sharply. Wages also increased.

Happy day

When the bridge connecting the two banks of the Tien River is opened to the public in late September, the need to use a ferry will be eliminated and the delta will be able to attract more investment

It usually takes about 25 minutes to go to the other riverside by ferry, later it will take only 5-7 minutes to across the bridge.

Opportunities for Ben Tre Province

The Rach Mieu Bridge will not simply facilitate transportation in the region, but will also facilitate Ben Tre Province’s economic and tourism development.

Before the bridge is finished, many foreign and domestic investors visited the province to study its economic potentials. The province’s competitive competence index soared sharply in 2007, ranking 14th among 64 provinces and cities nationwide, up 12 positions over 2006.

At a conference last year, Mr Huynh Van Be, party chief for Ben Tre, said that he had been asked by many of the businessmen about when the Rach Mieu Bridge would be finished. That means not only were the people of Ben Tre concerned of the bridge going into use, but business circles, domestic and foreign alike, also longed for its formation, he said.

Alliance One Apparel Company, a 100 percent Thai-owned enterprise in the Giao Long Industrial Park plans to spend US$18 million on factories to outsource garment products for multinationals such as Adidas and Nike. In a second phase, the company plans to spend an additional US$30 million, which will make it the biggest Thai investor in Ben Tre.

The Rach Mieu Bridge is located on the National Road 60, around 70 km away from Ho Chi Minh City and 3 km away from Trung Luong junction with National 1A. It connects National Road 60, the K120 bridge in Tien Giang, and National Road 20 at the town of  Chau Thanh in Chau Thanh district in Ben Tre. The length of this bridge is 2,878 meters, and clearance for boats is 37.5 meters.
 
The bridge is built under a build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract. The total cost of the project is estimated at VND988 billion (US$59 million), VND571 billion (58 percent) comes from the government and the remaining is BOT funds. The BOT investor is a joint venture of CIENCO 1, 5 and 6.
 
The capital for the construction is projected to be repaid within 11 years. The bridge toll will be the same as the current ferry charge.

Sources: SGGP, Ben Tre Province Website - Compiled by Yen Chuong

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