Once replaced, the existing Demerara Harbour Bridge is to be sited at a hinterland location and mining industry players are welcoming the plan.
Minister of Transport Robeson Benn had said at his ministry’s 2013 year-in-review press conference last Friday that the bridge would be removed and possibly taken to cross the Puruni or Kurupukari Rivers.
“No, we will not be keeping it… the elements of the bridge at the time when the new bridge comes into place, since it is a floating bridge, will be moved, preferably to a freshwater crossing location,” Benn had said in response to Stabroek News’ query about the fate of the old bridge.
Benn told Stabroek News that to maintain the bridge there would a toll for crossing but explained that it would be far cheaper than what is currently being charged.
“It would be a toll crossing but [at] a freshwater location they would see a significant drop in maintenance cost…I don’t want to say if it will be minimal or what as we have not yet decided,” he said.
President of the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) Patrick Harding said that the mining community, on learning of the plan, welcomed it.
“Any bridge that will bridge any of the rivers that will make transport easier for our miners, we gladly welcome. I must say it was very thoughtful of Minister Benn to consider the mining community and we do appreciate it,” Harding said.
“The waterways are unpredictable and many don’t know how much we are affected because when the tides are high it’s one thing and when they are low another. A bridge will help travel significantly,” he added.
Harding noted that while he understands that the commencement of this project might not begin until another ten years, his organisation would prefer that miners not pay a toll but help to maintain the bridge from monies in the organisation’s coffers.
Minister of Natural Resources Robert Persaud said that having the bridge placed at a hinterland location was a move supported by his ministry. “Because of the increase in activities in the hinterlands, any form of bridging is supported…,” he said.
Having completed a pre-feasibility study, government through its holding company, the National Industrial and Commercial Investments Limited (NICIL) last year had invited expressions of interest from local and foreign parties to be a partner in the new Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB).
NICIL said that the project will be implemented using a Build-Own-Operate-Transfer (BOOT) model, in a manner similar to the Berbice Bridge. The model for the Berbice Bridge has, however, been criticised for resulting in high crossing tariffs for Berbicians.
It said that three possible sites have been proposed, including a location close to the existing bridge. Another site proposed would span the river from Houston, East Bank Demerara to Versailles, West Bank Demerara; and the third from New Hope, East Bank Demerara to Laurentia Catherina, Hope to Laurentia Catherina (a location south of Patentia), West Bank Demerara.
Benn remained tightlipped about disclosing which location was chosen but informed that arrangements to move homes and businesses that fall within the project area have been considered.
To date, Stabroek News was told, there have been responses by several foreign companies.