The government has approved US$14 million to restore on the Long Bien Bridge, the storied iron bridge that crosses the Red River in Hanoi, newswire VietNamNet reported on Wednesday.
The first stage of the VND298 billion restoration plan is expected to finish by 2016, reinforcing the bridge to maintain train traffic across the Red River through 2020, according to a letter sent by Vietnam Railways to the Ministry of Transportation.
Following that, the second stage of the project will limit the bridge to vehicle traffic.
At that point, rail traffic will be diverted to the elevated track being built between Yen Vien town in Gia Lam District to Ngoc Hoi in Thanh Tri Commune.
The Long Bien Bridge was completed 112 years ago and has survived two wars.
The structure's current “critical” condition has placed commuters at significant risk, according to comments made by Vietnam Railways Chairman Tran Ngoc Thanh.
Last year, the transport ministry drew flak for its plan to either relocate undamaged portions of the bridge to a different section of the river and build a new bridge over the remainder, or tear down the entire structure and build a new one in its place.
Many historians and architects said that changing the bridge or relocating it from its historical location would both be disrespectful.
Long Bien was originally 1,800 meters long and contained a single-track railway in the middle with car and pedestrian lanes on both sides. However, several American bombings during the Vietnam War, left it severely damaged.
A reconstruction effort launched in 1973, left only half of the bridge's original structure intact.