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Saigon's Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter

By Huu Khoa   September 2, 2019 | 08:10 pm PT
The erection of road fences for expansion work has worsened rush hour congestion on Kenh Te Bridge in Saigon.
Saigons Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter

The bridge connects District 4 and District 7 over the Te Canal, which was dug in 1906 to boost connectivity between Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta region.

The 763-meter-long two-lane bridge, built in 2006, is one of the three in the city that spans the canal to link the two districts, the other two being Tan Thuan and Tan Thuan 2. However, both these are one-way bridges.

Saigons Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter - 1

Every morning, crossing the Kenh Te Bridge has become an energy-sapping ordeal for residents of southern Saigon.

At rush hour, long queues of vehicles line up for kilometers from the intersection of Nguyen Huu Tho and Nguyen Thi Thap Streets in District 7. They move at a snail’s pace towards the city center.

Saigons Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter - 2

Many drivers take a shortcut into Alley 108 of Nguyen Huu Tho Street to cross through the bridge, but congestion in the alley does not make things any easier. 

Despite its relatively short length, locals have dubbed it the "longest bridge in Saigon" given the time taken to cross it, which is usually half an hour or more.

Saigons Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter - 3

The situation has worsened because the bridge has been narrowed down to carry out construction work. The road fences are part of a $3.8-million expansion project which started in May 2018 and was expected to be completed in July 2019, but has been delayed. The project will widen the bridge from 15.1 meters to 16.5 meters with four lanes.  

Nguyen Vinh Ninh, deputy director of the city's management board of urban infrastructure construction and investment, blamed the delay on the slow relocation and installation of a water pipeline by Saigon Water Corporation, the city's main water supplier. 

"Sawaco has completed the installation of the pipeline and the project is expected to complete in mid-September," said Ninh.

Saigons Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter - 4

Stuck in traffic for a long time, a boy sleeps in the hands of his relative.

"I moved to District 7 seven years ago. At that time, the roads were so deserted that I dared not travel at night. But a number of real estate projects in the vicinity have sprung up, making the area more crowded," said Nguyen Van Tuan living on Nguyen Huu Tho Street.

Saigons Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter - 5

The same story gets repeated in the evening when people head home from work. From Khanh Hoi and Hoang Dieu Streets in District 4, vehicles queue up and squeeze through the bottleneck to cross the bridge to get to District 7 and its neighboring Nha Be District.   

The bridge had been a traffic jam hotspot even before the expansion began. The project was aimed at solving the problem, but the prolonged construction is taking a toll on commuters.

Saigons Kenh Te Bridge upgrade squeezes commuters tighter - 6

"The traffic jam nearly lasted all day today. Fences erected on both sides of the bridge not only occupy the walkway of pedestrians but also obstruct traffic. I hope that the bridge expansion will be completed soon, and the traffic moves easier," said Bui Thi Hoa, a street vendor.

The population in District 7 has been growing rapidly in recent years, with numerous apartment complexes springing up, putting enormous pressure on local traffic infrastructure. Authorities are thinking of building a new bridge but the project remains on paper.

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