Plans for a fifth bridge connecting Thailand and Laos across the Mekong River is underway with blueprints being examined by the Lao government, a provincial official said on Tuesday.
Connecting the Thai province of Loei with Vientiane Province in Laos, the bridge is set to see the status of an existing border crossing upgraded to full accreditation.
Along with the expansion plans comes the upgrading of a 132-km roadway connecting the border crossing at the district of Xanakham with that of Hinheup sitting astride Laos’ major north-south National Road No. 13.
A proposal for the road and bridge construction project was under examination at the national level, state-run media Vientiane Times quoted Director of Public Works and Transport for Vientiane province Soumountha Somchanmavong as saying.
The planned road and bridge is set to permit greater flow of travel and freight between Laos and Thailand and onward to China’s southwestern province of Yunnan, boosting trade and relieving congestion on the existing road network that sees most goods flows routed toward the existing 1st Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge connecting the country’s capital of Vientiane and Thailand’s province of Nong Khai.
Interconnecting regional road and rail infrastructure including including the Lao-China Railway currently under construction are central to Lao plans to strengthen overland links connecting the landlocked country to the larger markets of its neighbors as well as sea ports and global trade hubs via the China-proposed “Belt and Road” initiative.
Transport development for trade and tourism has been identified as a key development plank by Lao policymakers in its bid to achieve by 2020 the necessary metrics in order to graduate from the ranks of the world’s least developed countries.