The renovation of the Chain Bridge – Hungary’s oldest bridge across the Danube – which had been delayed for years, finally started this Wednesday, so it will not be possible to walk across the bridge until 2023, Budapest Public Transport Company (BKK) said.
The contractor A-Híd Zrt. took over the work area on March 17th, Wednesday, closing the surroundings of the bases and the pedestrian sidewalks; in this way, the preparatory work can be carried out without interruption. BKK said that A-Híd is planning to renovate the bridge with an offer of net HUF 18.8 billion (EUR 51 million); however, the construction will cost a total of 26.75 billion forints (EUR 72.7 million).
The restoration and repairs of the bridge has been on the agenda for a very long time. The Chain Bridge was last renovated in 1986-1988, and the question of new repairs emerged again in 2002. An engineering report in 2011 examining the condition of the bridge revealed serious damage to the structure of the bridge; according to this, the repair of the corroded structural elements should have begun nine years ago, and it would also have been necessary to replace the ferroconcrete, because its load-bearing capacity was significantly reduced.
After the local elections in October 2019, Gergely Karácsony’s new city management started negotiations with the government to ask for more than the promised HUF 6 billion for the renewal, because Budapest couldn’t raise more than the planned HUF 17 billion from its own resources for the renovation of the Chain Bridge and the Castle tunnel. The renovation since then has been the subject of debate between the capital and the government. They have been pointing fingers and blaming each other for delays. However, it seems that the renovation is now finally underway.
According to the plans, the Chain Bridge will be renewed fundamentally: the sidewalks and the roadway will be completely demolished and rebuilt, and the steel plates will be rust-free. The monumental restoration is also on the agenda, according to the spokesman for BKK, Dávid Borsi. In addition, the underpasses will be renewed on both sides, with the stairs widened in Buda and Pest. A new pedestrian crossing will be established on the Pest side between the north and south sidewalks and the chains will get new paint, just to mention a few of the new features.
Experts will first assess the work area, inspect the substructures and utility connections, and then build a crane track and erect the scaffolding, they wrote. A-Híd Zrt. also added that the bridge is expected to be closed to car traffic from as of mid-June- until then, buses 16 and 105 and night buses 916 and 990 will also be able to travel on the bridge without interruption.
The Chain Bridge is a fundamental cultural symbol of both Budapest and Hungary. Every year on March 15th, the bridge commemorates the Hungarian revolution of 1848, when young patriots, inspired by the news of the revolution in Vienna, decided to organize mass demonstrations with the aim of gaining independence from Hapsburg rule. The new renovation plans indicate that old bulbs on the bridge will be replaced with LED bulbs, making decorative lighting more sustainable in the future.
Unfortunately, the beautiful site will be unavailable for a long time. Road traffic is expected to return in December 2022, however, pedestrian sidewalks will remain work areas until construction is complete in 2023.
The modernization of the Chain Bridge will bring a change in the lives of those traveling in the capital, therefore the BKK will continuously provide information on the details of the traffic closure and renovation.
Featured photo by Márton Mónus/MTI