‘Handful’ of properties to be removed before construction of new Demerara Bridge
By Isanella Pator
A handful of properties will have to be acquired by the government and subsequently removed before construction can commence on the new Demerara River Bridge.
This is according to Patrick Thompson, the Chief Transport Planning Officer of the Ministry of Public Works. Thompson spoke with reporters during a visit on Monday to the proposed site at Nandy Park and Continental Park on the East Bank of Demerara where the alignment of the bridge will land.
“Any property that is within the right away of the bridge will have to be acquired and there is a process that is determined by the law of how the acquisition of properties for public purposes is done and that will be thoroughly followed.
“So, I don’t want to be specific [and say] seven and it was eight [properties] but there are a handful of properties that will likely fall in the right away of the bridge and those have to be acquired,” Thompson explained.
There are no properties that will be affected at La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara where the other side of the bridge will land.
Thompson explained that there have been consultations at various levels to facilitate the construction of the bridge and this is a continuous process through various agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Central Housing and Planning Authority, the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority, the Neighbourhood Democratic Council and Lands and Survey.
There is also an ongoing process with the EPA where residents are being made aware of this massive project; residents can also ask questions and raise objections and concerns.
“That is an ongoing process as we speak with the EPA,” Thompson said.
The project is a design-build finance project – this means that the contractor will also design the bridge.
However, the government has set parameters for the contractor – China State Construction Engineering Corporation – to follow. The final design will include the length and width of the spans, the height of the pylons, and the materials that will be used.
According to the government, the company proposed that it can construct the new bridge at a cost of US$256.6 million.
The new bridge will be elevated about 50 metres above the channel in the demerara river. This will result in no daily retractions.
“In this case, there will be uninterrupted 24-hour travel across the bridge,” Thompson said.
Additionally, the new structure will make an impact some 700 metres inland from the bank of the Demerara River. The landing will be in the vicinity of Nandy Park and the Ramada Princess Hotel at Providence. From there, a new four-lane road will also be constructed and will extend to the Diamond – Eccles highway.
“It would be important that they (Ramada Princess Hotel) and all the other residents are aware of the project and understand the impact they have, that is why there is an application with the EPA and the application has a project summary and the project summary has details about potential impacts such a project will have in the area,” Thompson explained.
Meanwhile, the capacity of the commute between Regions Four and Three is expected to be greatly enhanced. Currently, the two-lane bridge has a capacity for 1,500 vehicles to transverse within an hour but with the new four-lane new high span bridge, this will be enhanced to approximately 3,000 vehicles in an hour.
The bridge is also being built to include two lanes for pedestrians.
According to Thompson, before construction can commence, there will have to be the retraining of drainage, the relocation of utilities but most importantly, the acquisition of properties.
“I think the most critical thing is where properties will have to be acquired.”
NO OBJECTION FROM REGION 4 RDC
Meanwhile, Regional Chairman of Region Four Daniel Seeram is expected to give a no-objection approval at the regional level to pave the way for the construction of the bridge.
During the site visit on Monday, he expressed some residential and environmental concerns. Seeram was also accompanied by three councillors of the Regional Democratic Council.
After being briefed on the project, Seeram said “a project of such a nature is always welcomed by the region for development.”
He added, “This is for the citizens of Region Four and Region Three, and by extension in the country, a well-welcomed project, however, we would raise concerns this afternoon not on the technical aspect much but we are looking at the social impact it will have on the residents of the area.”
He said he will be meeting residents in the area but will first consult the Public Works Ministry and the EPA to ensure no redundant work is done.
He said the new bridge will greatly ease traffic woes, especially in the morning and afternoon rush hours.
“Here we are working together as a team, both the regional government and the central government along with all the other local authorities to ensure that such projects have all of the questions answered and that all Guyanese can understand that some amount of discomforts will be there,” Seeram said.
For years, the current Demerara Harbour Bridge has been plagued with mechanical issues and accidents; causing huge traffic builds up much to the displeasure of commuters.