Workers sprinkle sand to cover the spilt bitumen on Sunday. Picture by Anup Bhattacharya
The bitumen spill from a truck carrying the sticky road-construction material on Saturday morning kept a portion of the Calcutta-bound flank of Vidyasagar Setu closed for traffic for the second consecutive day.
Officials of the Hooghly River Bridge Commissioners (HRBC) said the spilt tar had been scraped off the road surface and the entire flank would be open for traffic on Monday — the day the new government secretariat, Nabanna, opens after the Puja holidays.
Till Sunday afternoon, a part of the flank was barricaded because workers were restoring the road.
Around 2am on Saturday, bitumen leaked from a tanker near the toll plaza and the gummy substance fell on the bridge.
The HRBC authorities deployed workers to scrape off the bitumen from the Setu.
Though much of the leaked bitumen had been scraped off the road by Sunday afternoon, a layer of sand was sprinkled to ensure that no vehicle slipped on leftover bitumen.
“The entire flank will be thrown open by Monday morning after sprinkling of sand is over,” said a senior official of the HRBC.
The volume of traffic on Saturday and Sunday was low but the number will go up significantly from Monday, a traffic police officer said.
The additional pressure of vehicles — which increased since the opening of 11 state government departments at Nabanna in Howrah’s Mandirtala where chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s office has also shifted — have added to the long queue on the lanes of the toll plaza. The bitumen roadblock has added to the chaos. But HRBC officials assured smooth flow of traffic from Monday.
“We had a discussion with police on Saturday. Accordingly, we decided to clear the road as early as possible. Whatever little work is left will be completed by Sunday night. The entire Calcutta-bound flank will be opened by Monday morning,” the HRBC official said.
The driver of the tanker was arrested on Saturday on charges of obstructing a public way or line of navigation. Police officers said the bitumen leaked after the lid of the tanker’s outflow channel broke off.
“The tanker had crossed the toll plaza and was slowly moving ahead when it suddenly stopped. Within minutes the bitumen fell and spread across a large portion of the road. It was very hot and people in the vicinity could feel the heat,” said a policeman who was on duty at the flyover that night.
The police barricaded a portion of the Calcutta-bound flank but could do little other than wait till the morning. When officials of the HRBC, the custodian of Vidyasagar Setu, reached the spot in the morning, the bitumen had hardened. “It was a difficult task to remove the bitumen,” said an HRBC official.
The HRBC officials lit a fire on the road smeared with a thick layer of bitumen. The heat liquefied the hardened tar and workers could scrape it off the road.
The driver told the police that he was transporting the consignment from Haldia for a central government undertaking in Calcutta.