24-hour speed boat service, free shuttle among plans for 3-day closure of Harbour Bridge
By Sharda Bacchus
Twenty-four-hour service of speed boats and ambulances, free shuttle between the Vreed-en-Hoop junction and the stelling along with enhanced lighting and security are among the measures to be put in place to facilitate the three-day closure of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB).
And while permission has been granted for boat operators to utilize a crossing from Wales, West Bank Demerara (WBD) to Grove on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD) during this period, the possibility of a third crossing from Providence, EBD to Nismes, WBD, is being explored to ensure the lives of citizens are not affected.
The authorities are also in discussions with airlines to extend the check-in time at the airports to accommodate affected passengers. This disclosure was made by Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill at a public consultation held at Umana Yana on Wednesday to discuss logistical arrangements ahead of the replacement of span nine of the DHB.
The closure is scheduled to start from 11:59 pm July 24 to 11:59 pm on July 27.
According to Edghill, to ensure a smooth transition of the process, a series of factors were taken into consideration, including the tide and the closure of schools.
Suppliers and distributors of goods and the movement of fuel to Regions 3, 1, and 7 were also catered for, he said.
Among the major concerns raised by members of the public were safety and security and the increase in fares.
And to ensure there are no incidents, Edghill assured the concerned members of the public that measures will be implemented by the relevant authorities, including the Guyana Police Force, the Mayor and City Council (M&CC), and the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD).
This, he said, will see meetings being held with speed boat operators to ensure only those who are licensed can transport passengers and that persons are not overcharged; the free flow of traffic, especially around the Stabroek Market area, and MARAD officials being placed at the stellings to guide citizens.
“…This closure is not going to be a sudden one…This one is planned, anticipated and… would be one that is adequately prepared for so that we could get things done,” the Public Works Minister said.
With works on span nine planned since last year, the Chairman of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation, Ravi Ramcharitar, said it is being replaced in the interest of public safety.
“This is not just a decision that was taken very lightly. We recognised that the existing span nine is in a terrible shape mechanically and it needs to be replaced,” Ramcharitar noted.
He added, “We have a responsibility to ensure that the bridge is safe for all travellers.”
The new span nine measures 170 feet long and 40 feet wide and is valued at $1.2 billion.
Last year September, span nine was damaged when the Panamanian flagged vessel, MV Tradewinds Passion, crashed into the bridge during a retraction period and rendered the bridge inoperable for several days.
In May this year, the new span nine was transported from the dockyard to the bridge for the perfect time and tide for installation.
In outlining the works that will be conducted during the closure, the General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge, Wayne Watson said works will be done simultaneously.
“…We will take out span nine, the old one, and install the new one simultaneously and that is where we were able to reduce a considerable amount of time because the initial plan we had…eight then seven days,” Watson noted.
And on the other two days, there will be several rounds of inspections, testing, and a trial retraction of the newly installed span nine.
“Once that has been completed if there are any observations of misalignment or issues, we will then do the necessary corrective action to ensure that the Spans are aligned and…traffic soon after will flow,” he said.