Danube Bridge would re-open to heavy freight lorries at 10pm on April 9, Bulgaria’s Road Infrastructure Agency said. Earlier, the agency said that traffic was due to resume on April 13.
The ban, which only applied to lorries heavier than 10 tonnes, was put in place on April 7 after the appearance of a large pothole on one of the lanes from Bulgaria into Romania. An emergency inspection on April 8 concluded that recent rains sped up the erosion of the reinforced concrete slab.
Repairs on the stretch affected will continue until end-May, but cargo lorries will be allowed to use the adjacent lane and traffic police would help speed up the crossing for the lorries that have been waiting in parking lots on the Bulgarian bank, the road agency said.
Linking the towns of Rousse on the Bulgarian bank and Giurgiu on the Romanian side, Danube Bridge began operations in June 1954. In that time, it never underwent major repairs to the concrete slabs that form the foundation of the road section, reports in Bulgarian media said.
The redirected freight traffic caused long queues at the closest ferryboat line across the Danube River – the one linking Svishtov in Bulgaria to Zimnicea in Romania.
To deal with the increased traffic, the ferry line said early on April 9 that it was bringing in a third boat and would work round the clock, Focus news agency reported. Later in the day, the ferry stopped operations, claiming “a technological break-down.”
The sudden influx of traffic was taking a heavy toll on the road between Rousse and Svishtov, which was already in poor condition, while the heavy lorries could wreak havoc on Svishtov’s streets, the mayor of Svishtov, Stanislav Blagov, was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the other ferryboat lines across the river complained that they were not getting enough custom, with Dobri Radev, the executive director of the larger Oryahovo-Bechet line, about 100km upstream from Svishtov, blaming authorities for not redirecting the traffic more evenly.
The traffic interruption comes just a month before the planned opening of the Danube Bridge 2 between Vidin in Bulgaria and Calafat on the Romanian bank, which could have taken on the bulk of the redirected freight traffic if it were operational.
On April 9, speaking at a conference on infrastructure projects, President Rossen Plevneliev said that Bulgaria wanted to build two more bridges across the Danube River – including one at Rousse, whether as an expansion of the existing Danube Bridge or as a separate structure.
(Danube Bridge photo: garycycles7/flickr.com)