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Authority criticized for blocking access to bridge (2)

By Tan Zongyang (China Daily)

08:24, October 15, 2012

"In the long-term interest, the side lanes of the bridge should be closed and merged into the main expressway to eliminate potential safety hazards," the statement said, adding that villagers can apply for favorable monthly payments for bridge tolls.

The incident has again underlined the problem of collecting tolls for maintenance and safeguarding the country's highway bridges.

Zhengzhou Yellow River Highway Bridge in Zhengzhou, capital of Henan province, abolished its toll stations since Oct 9 after charging tolls for 26 years.

Traffic on the 5,550-meter toll-free bridge has increased, raising safety concerns.

Heavy cargo carriers that were banned on the bridge were found passing through, as supervision suffered after the facilities at the toll gates were abandoned, Worker's Daily reported on Saturday.

The paper reported last month that the provincial traffic authority has warned that the bridge, which was build in 1986, has cracks on its body and needs to be strengthened and reinforced.

"Although the bridge has been exempt from tolls, it doesn't mean that the management should be weakened," said Yang Hongshan, deputy dean of Renmin University of China's institute of public governance.

Yang said that local governments should take responsibility for maintaining and inspecting the bridges.

According to Yang, China started large-scale construction of toll highways and bridges in the 1990s, and the management of those structures will be taken over by the government after two or three decades of public service.

Following the lead of the Yellow River in Zhengzhou, more highways and bridges will allow the public to pass for free after they have collected enough tolls to pay off construction costs and debt.

"As more bridges will be transferred from private sectors, the government should arrange more money to guarantee safety," he said.

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