The current budget for the Lena bridge (shown here on artistic impressions) is 83 billion roubles or $1.3 billion
Vital link uniting east and west of the country will realise a long-held dream.
A three kilometre car bridge over the Lena River might be ready by 2025 after Vladimir Putin’s decisive ‘the situation matured to implementation’ resolution on the draft project, reported Kommersant newspaper.
This short phrase potentially means the end of decades-long waiting for a permanent link connecting two shores of Lena and stamping Russia’s diamond capital of Yakutsk firmly on the country’s transport map.
The bridge would also provide a vital shortcut through Eastern Siberia to the ports of the Sea of Okhotsk via the transport corridor from Irkutsk to Magadan.
Artistic impression of the future cable-stayed bridge
The project presents major engineering challenges since the bridge must be constructed on permafrost.
The current budget for the Lena bridge is 83 billion roubles or $1.3 billion.
The plan is to make it toll free for cars with other vehicles needing to pay.
54 billion roubles on the permafrost bridge will come from state and republican budgets; nearly 29 billion roubles are to be provided by a private investor.
Currently Yakutsk has no year-round land transport links connecting it to Russia’s system of federal automobile routes, with no stable communication for 152 days a year.
Ice roads of Yakutia. Pictures: The Siberian Times
Getting to and fromYakutsk - the world’s coldest city - on land in winter means driving on the hard frozen river; when ice thaws there are slow and ineffective ferries connecting two shores.
‘A bridge across Lena is a dream of many generation of Yakut people, of Russian people because it is not just a link between right and left banks but a symbol of unifying West and East of the country; I would say it is a bridge into the future’, the head of Yakutia Aisen Nikolayev told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper in 2018.
The cable-stayed bridge will have two lanes according to the current draft with the forecast traffic in the first years of operation over 1.5 million cars.
Every fifth vehicle will be a truck, with the number of cargo vehicles doubling by 2043.
The Lena bridge should significantly reduce the annual cost of the so-called ‘Northern Delivery’ - when supplies are flown or shipped by rivers to the most remote corners of Yakutia - by four billion roubles ($62 million USD).
Vladimir Putin approves Russia’s next mega infrastructure project, a $1.3 billion bridge across Lena. Picture: Governmnet of Yakutia
The bridge will give the first permanent crossing from Yakutsk to the settlement of Nizhny Bestyakh on the opposite bank of the Lena River.
Nizhny Bestyakh is the last station on the recently opened AYAM railway, linking to the Trans-Siberian wail route, and it also connects to three federal highways - 'Viluy', 'Kolyma' and 'Lena', as well as several regional routes.
However, the decision for a vehicle-only bridge is in contrast to the new link to Crimea which also accommodates rail.
The go-ahead is bound to lead to demands for a train link to follow, potentially opening up the prospect of a link from the Trans-Siberian railway to a line extending to Chukotka and perhaps one day to Alaska, so linking to the North American network.