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Reconstruction Team Begins $1.7 Million Bridge Project

By Gina Gillespie
Special to American Forces Press Service

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2007 – Construction is under way for a $1.7 million bridge across the Farah Rud River in Tojg. The project, funded by the Farah Provincial Reconstruction Team, will employ several hundred local people for two years.

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Engineers survey the site of the future Tojg Bridge, which will span the Farah Rud River in Afghanistan. Defense Department photo

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The project will benefit not only the 10,000 residents of Tojg, but also people from the districts of Shib Koh, Qalay Ka, Lashe Jowain and Farah City.

In summer, the Farah Rud River meanders lazily through the desert rocks. But during the rainy season, the water levels rise up to 30 feet, spilling out of the channel and flooding the nearby plains.

The Farah Rud bisects the lower half of the province from north to south. It separates the people in the village of Tojg, from the main road and their farmlands. The nearest crossing is several hours away, in Farah City. Eight to 10 people drown annually attempting to cross the river.

The massive masonry and reinforced-concrete bridge will span 900 feet and rise 36 feet over the center span. The bridge foundation will include two semicircular abutments, including headwalls, one central pier and 15 minor piers, all keyed into the bedrock. The bridge superstructure will include two large masonry abutments, one masonry arch span and one central span. The bridge will support two lanes of traffic and two pedestrian lanes.

“If you live in Lashe Jowain and you want to cross the river to go see fields on the other bank of the river, then you have to drive all the way to Farah, a nine- or 10-hour drive, cross the river at Boghi Pol Bridge in Farah City, then come all the way back down,” said Navy Lt. j.g. Stephen Ramsey, an engineer with PRT Farah.

For the three or four months of the annual rainy season, villagers cannot reach facilities and resources on the other side of the river without making the drive to Farah City. “If anyone needs medical care during the winter months, there’s almost zero chance of getting across without traveling all the way to Farah City,” said Army Maj. Harry Lorenzi, Civil Affairs Team chief with PRT Farah. “You’re defeating the purpose of having schools and clinics there if the people can’t get 100 feet across the river.”

Due to the size and duration of the project, several local contractors joined forces to create a joint-venture company, pooling resources, equipment and manpower for the bridge construction. “This is the first time this has happened,” Ramsey said. “It is a good way of building up one’s business. The project is bigger than any one of them could support.”

Haji Juma Khan owns the Bradaran Noori Construction Co., one of the companies in the joint venture. He agreed the joint venture is a good idea. “This joint construction company has the ability to do any kind of project. We prefer five companies working together,” he said. “One hand clapping makes no sound.”

By reducing travel time to the city center, this link will enhance economic activity, improve Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police response times, and improve access to social services. The link also will extend the reach of the central government, allowing officials to conduct more frequent assessments of the outer districts.

“This project is right up there with some of the major projects we have done in Afghanistan,” Ramsey said. “It’s part of the foundation infrastructure, roads and bridges and dams, heavy infrastructure that allows transportation and goods and services to flow. Projects like this are critical for the functioning of the economy.”

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageEngineers survey the site of the future Tojg Bridge which will span the Farah Rud River. Each winter, the Farah Rud River floods, cutting villagers off from the main highway, and leaving them no option but to drive several hours to the next crossing in Farah City, Afghanistan. The $1.7 million, 900-foot bridge, funded by the Farah PRT, will make life easier for the villagers. The project will take two years to complete and will employ several hundred local people. Defense Department photo  
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