Harbour Bridge needs billions of dollars in repairs
By Shikema Dey
The government will be spending billions of dollars soon to maintain and execute major repairs to the 43-year-old Demerara Harbour Bridge, even as plans are underway to establish a new one.
Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, told the News Room on Wednesday that repairs have to be done to two retractor spans and the anchorage of the bridge which serves as the main link between the East and West Banks of Demerara.
He said that contracts have already been awarded for the repairs to Spans 9’ and 10’ to the tune of $1.2 billion. According to the Public Works Minister, while engineers were addressing issues with the retractor spans, problems were discovered with the anchorage. The cost estimate for the repairs to the anchorage is pegged at $412 million.
“The anchorage of the bridge is in a state of disrepair largely due to neglect over the last five years.
“We have done an assessment and we have to deal with it because if the anchorage is not in place and the integrity of the anchorage is challenged, then you don’t have a bridge,” the Public Works Minister explained.
Minister Edghill was keen to note his dissatisfaction with the management of the structure by both the policymakers and the Harbour Bridge Corporation.
He noted too that much focus was placed on the construction of the new, fixed, high-span Harbour Bridge and this led to major neglect of the old structure.
“We are conscious that we need a new bridge and every effort is being made to get that project executed but while that bridge is being built, we have to maintain the old bridge.
“Just one hour of no traffic across the Demerara Harbour Bridge…you can see the visible impact, the annoyance, the inconvenience, so we understand the sensitivities here and so we have to maintain the bridge.”
Already, $850 million was allocated to the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation (DHBC) in the 2021 National Budget. For years, the Bridge has been plagued with mechanical issues and accidents, causing chaos at both ends as thousands of commuters rush to cross resulting in major traffic congestion.
The DHB has already outlived its lifespan and is showing signs of serious wear and tear; the approach to fixing the issues, according to the Minister would be done over short and long-term phases.
Meanwhile, plans are moving ahead with the construction of the new Harbour Bridge. On Monday, the minister met with the nine pre-qualified bidders who sought clarification on several technical issues and the financing aspect of the project and requested an extension.
Now the bidders have until October 5 for the submission of their bid proposals for either the Design-Build & Finance option and Design-Build-Operate & Finance option.
Minister Edghill said that the government is expecting the new structure to be delivered 24 months after the signing of the contract.
“All the contractors are aware of that and not one of them at the pre-bid meeting raise any concerns about getting the job done within 24 months,” he added.
The nine companies shortlisted to build the bridge were Ballast Nedam Infrastructure Suriname BV, Odebrecht Engenharia e Construcao SA, Boskalis Guyana, Effiage Genie Civil Company Ltd (Netherlands), Rizzani de Eccher Construction (Italy), China State Construction Engineering Corp, China Gezhouba Group Company Limited, JV China Railway International Group, China Road and Bridge Company, and China Railway Construction Corporation Ltd.
It is intended that the bridge will land at Nandy Park on the East Bank of Demerara and Meer Zorgen/La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara.