but 74-year-old veteran Nguyen Thi Khanh Van still talks about how much she has benefited with sparkles in her only eye.

People transport cross the new Dinh Bridge located on National Highway 48E, connecting Nghia Dan District’s Nghia Hung Commune with Quy Hop District’s Nghia Xuan Commune of the central province of Nghe An. — VNS Photo Viet Cuong

The American War took Van's left leg and an eye while her husband lost both his legs. The two met and became a couple when they were both being treated for injuries in the north.

In 1984, Van moved to live in her husband’s hometown in Thanh Hoa Province, next to the Vang Bridge. The old Vang Bridge was built in the early 1980s together with the construction of the then Lam Son Sugar Factory, connecting Yen Dinh District’s Yen Thinh Commune with Tho Xuan District’s Xuan Minh Commune.

For Van and her husband, the cruel legacy of the war made crossing the bridge a nightmare.

“The old bridge was very narrow so we found it difficult and unsafe to cross the bridge, especially when we had to go with other vehicles,” Van said.

The twisty bridgeheads which were hidden from view had also caused many traffic accidents in the area, she said.

She added that the bridge was constructed in a low position so whenever there was a flood, it was deep in water so people were forced to travel by fragile bamboo rafts pulled by rope from side to side.

“It was extremely difficult and dangerous to travel during that time,” Van said.

Things completely changed for local residents like Van when the Vang Bridge was selected as one of 25 bridges in Thanh Hoa Province to be replaced under a project to replace ageing and dilapidated bridges on national roads nationwide, with the funds coming from Japan International Co-operation Agency (JICA) loans.

After eight months of construction, a new concrete Vang Bridge, 33m in width, was completed in May last year.

Nguyen Thi Khanh Van stands on the new Vang Bridge, pointing at the old Vang Bridge. — VNS Photo Hong Minh

“Now my husband and I can go to the market or visit relatives on the other bank with the new bridge much easier, without fear and no need for help from others as before,” Van said.

According to Le Van Luong, Secretary of the Party Committee, Chairman of Yen Thinh Commune People's Council, besides the convenience and safety for local residents, the new bridge has also helped improve livelihoods.

“Since the opening of the new bridge, the locality has seen investment projects coming in and the industrial zones are expected to attract 1,500 workers, contributing to the effective implementation of hunger eradication and poverty reduction in the area and helping people access culture, health and education,” he said.

“Previously, it took 50 minutes to travel from the commune to Sao Vang Airport (the old name of Tho Xuan Airport), but now it only takes 20 minutes,” Luong said, adding that local farmers had also seen the value of agricultural production increase as their products are transported smoothly to neighbouring provinces by car or by air to the south.

The neighbouring province of Nghe An had 10 bridges replaced under the JICA project. Most of the old bridges were spillway bridges which had deteriorated.

The old Dinh Bridge is one of the degraded spillway bridges on the Dinh River, located on National Highway 48E, connecting Nghia Dan District’s Nghia Hung Commune with Quy Hop District’s Nghia Xuan Commune.

In the past, when the rainy season came, floods affected local people with water levels up to 3-5m and lasted for days or even months. The bridge was submerged, seriously affecting travel, especially for those in the poor commune Nghia Hung.

A man crosses the old Dinh Bridge, which was a spillway bridge in the past. A new Dinh Bridge has replaced the old one since June last year. — Photo courtesy of JICA

Bui Xuan Quy, 59, a resident in Nghia Hung, said during the flooding seasons in the past, people in his commune used to be isolated from the outside world as the old Dinh Bridge was the only way to leave the commune.

“Sometimes we had to hire a boat to rush sick people to hospital in the neighbouring commune during the flood,” he said.

The inconvenient bridge also affected people’s cultural life as mobile cinema teams or music and dance shows could not visit the commune.

“The new Dinh Bridge that opened in June last year is not only convenient but also helps local people improve their income and cultural life,” he said.

“Now people can easily go to Nghia Xuan Commune for cinema and karaoke, or even for breakfast,” he added.

The Vang Bridge and Dinh Bridge are among 242 bridges on national highways in 40 provinces which have been replaced under the JICA project.

According to To Duc Luu, Head of Project 3 under the Ministry of Transport’s Project Management Unit 6, the criteria to select bridges to be replaced is based on the importance and transport demand on the route. The bridges will also be replaced if they lack the required load capacity or width compared to the scale of the route.  

Hong Minh (VNS) 

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