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Indian bridge finally set to open

ONE of India's most ambitious infrastructure projects - a US$335 million bridge that cuts across a bay to link central Mumbai with its fast-growing western suburbs - is scheduled to open to the public today.

More than a decade in the making, the 5.6-kilometer Bandra-Worli sea link is expected to cut driving time between the two neighborhoods it connects from 40 minutes to just six.

The bridge's pylons are 126 meters high, equivalent to 43-story buildings. It has 37,680km of wires, nearly the circumference of the earth. It weighs 670,000 tons, about as much as 50,000 African elephants.

The project has been plagued by litigation, street protests and conflicts between contractors and the government.

India's new government has said infrastructure spending is a priority, but details of how such investment will be facilitated remain hazy.

A rising fiscal deficit and tight liquidity have added to bureaucratic challenges and the complexities of large-scale development in this freewheeling democracy.

The Planning Commission, a top government advisory body, has estimated that the nation may need to double its ports, roads, power, telecom and airport capacity, at a cost of US$500 billion through 2012.

Four lanes of the bridge will open to the public today. The remaining four lanes are scheduled to open in December.


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