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Howrah Bridge

The Howrah Bridge is a balanced cantilever bridge over the Hooghly River in West Bengal, India. Commissioned in 1943, the bridge was originally named the New Howrah Bridge, because it replaced a pontoon bridge at the same location linking the cities of Howrah and Kolkata (Calcutta). On 14 June 1965, it was renamed Rabindra Setu after the great Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore, who was the first Indian and Asian Nobel laureate. It is still popularly known as the Howrah Bridge.The bridge is one of four on the Hooghly River and is a famous symbol of Kolkata and West Bengal. The other bridges are the Vidyasagar Setu (popularly called the Second Hooghly Bridge), the Vivekananda Setu and the relatively new Nivedita Setu. It weathers the storms of the Bay of Bengal region, carrying a daily traffic of approximately 100,000 vehicles and possibly more than 150,000 pedestrians, easily making it the busiest cantilever bridge in the world. The third-longest cantilever bridge at the time of its construction the Howrah Bridge is currently the sixth-longest bridge of its type in the world.In view of the increasing traffic across the Hooghly river, a committee was appointed in 1855–56 to review alternatives for constructing a bridge across it. The plan was shelved in 1859–60, to be revived in 1868, when it was decided that a bridge should be constructed and a newly appointed trust vested to manage it. The Calcutta Port Trust was founded in 1870 and the Legislative department of the then Government of Bengal passed the Howrah Bridge Act in the year 1871 under the Bengal Act IX of 1871 empowering the lieutenant-governor to have the bridge constructed with Government capital under the aegis of the Port Commissioners.

The Howrah Bridge Act of 1871
Eventually a contract was signed with Sir Bradford Leslie to construct a pontoon bridge. Different parts of the bridge were constructed in England and shipped to Calcutta, where they were assembled. The assembling period was fraught with problems. The bridge was considerably damaged by the great cyclone on 20 March 1874. A steamer named Egeria broke from her moorings and collided head-on with the bridge, sinking three pontoons and damaging nearly 200 feet of the bridge. The bridge was complete in 1874, at a total cost of ₹2.2 million and opened to traffic on 17 October of that year. The bridge was then 1528 ft long and 62 ft wide, with 7-foot wide pavements on either side. Initially the bridge was periodically unfastened to allow steamers and other marine vehicles to pass through. Before 1906, the bridge used to be undone for the passage of vessels during daytime only. Since June of that year it started opening at night for all vessels except ocean steamers, which were required to pass through during daytime. From 19 August 1879, the bridge was illuminated by electric lamp-posts, powered by the dynamo at the Mullick Ghat Pumping Station. As the bridge could not handle the rapidly increasing load, the Port Commissioners started planning in 1905 for a new improved bridge.

The bridge serves as the gateway to Kolkata, connecting it to the Howrah Station, which is one of the five intercity train terminus stations serving Howrah and Kolkata. As such, it carries the near entirety of the traffic to and from the station, taking its average daily traffic close to nearly 150,000 pedestrians and 100,000 vehicles. In 1946, a census of the daily traffic was taken, which counted 27,400 vehicles, 121,100 pedestrians and 2,997 cattle

the bridge still continues to carry much more than the expected load. A 2007 report revealed that nearly 90,000 vehicles were plying on the bridge daily (15,000 of which were goods-carrying), though its load-bearing capacity is only 60,000. One of the main reasons for the overloading was that, although vehicles carrying up to 15 tonnes are allowed on the structure, vehicles with 12-18 wheels and carrying loads up to 25 tonnes often plied on it. From 31 May 2007 onwards, overloaded trucks were banned from crossing the bridge and were redirected to the instead. The road is flanked by footpaths 15 feet (4.6 m) wide, which are thronged with pedestrians.

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