Good weather crucial to complete East Bank extension by deadline

- BK manager

The section of the East Bank four lane extension contracted to BK International ought to be finished by next March as long as weather conditions remain favourable, says BK Project Manager Julian Archer.
BK was awarded the contract for Lot Three of the project—a section which stretches from Little Diamond to the Diamond Intersection.

Since the commencement of work earlier this year, the project has suffered several setbacks, including adverse weather conditions, and the slow removal and relocation of GT&T, GPL and GWI infrastructural components. These and other impediments had greatly stymied progress on all three lots and earlier this year Manager of the Works Ministry’s Roads and Bridges Department, Ron Rahaman, had disclosed that Lot Three was only about 15% complete. The majority of the utilities-related issues have since been resolved however, and Rahaman said that the project is moving apace.

Archer told Stabroek News yesterday  that working hours have been extended and he insisted that this measure coupled with the extended period of favourable weather currently being experienced will help to move the work quickly along. Instead of working up to 6 pm, as was the case before, BK employees working on the lot will continue working until 11 pm or later.

Bridge Engineer Roy Collins (right) and BK Project Manager Julian Archer
Bridge Engineer Roy Collins (right) and BK Project Manager Julian Archer

Just two days ago, Archer noted, work did not cease until midnight. Working later hours allows for more work to be done in one day, and also affords the contractor the benefit of operating when traffic, which is another significant impediment to the ongoing works, is at its lightest.

Archer disclosed that there has been increased movement over the last two weeks and he is confident that Lot Three will be completed before the deadline, providing conditions remain constant.
The current deadline for the completion of all three lots is next June; however, the initial agreement stated that the projects were to be completed within 18 months of being awarded. They were all awarded last March.

Despite his confidence, Archer remains cognisant of the unpredictable nature of the weather, and also stated that the traffic situation continues to impede the ideal speed with which his engineers and workers are capable of moving.

BK is prohibited from working on the roadways during peak hours, Archer said, and while he understands the rationale behind the policy, he is also painfully aware of the time which is lost during these periods. Although the contractors are still allowed to conduct some off-road work, other important activities, such as the dumping of materials, are still prohibited during these hours. “These urban development projects are very difficult and unless they are properly planned then there are going to be many problems with them. Traffic is a killer in this project, that is the main challenge, that and utilities,” Archer explained.

He said that while most of the utilities-related issues have been resolved, there are some that still remain.

Many GT&T lines have been damaged by the contractor and they continue to be damaged regularly, Archer admitted. He said, however, that the company usually moves very swiftly to repair the damage, thereby restoring whatever services would have been interrupted. In addition to these hurdles, he said that a new component has been added to the contract. The contractor is now expected to install drainage systems, which are expected to improve the drainage situation of the area in which they are operating.

One drainage system will be taken to the outfall, which runs under the bridge near Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL), while another will be taken to the outfall in the vicinity of the traffic light at the Diamond intersection. But BK has confronted these challenges and is now moving very quickly towards completion of its lot.

In fact, next Tuesday the contracting firm will commence the cement stabilisation process of the lanes now covered in loam. “Cement will be laid over the loam, after which it will be mixed in to increase the base strength of the road,” Archer said. One week after this process is completed, he explained, the road will be paved.

Once the works reach this stage, residents along Lot Three will no longer be plagued by the dust, which they say covers their property on a daily basis. On a visit to the area just last month, one resident, a shop-owner, showed this reporter several shop-items, which he says needs to be cleaned daily because of the dust which covers it.

Meanwhile, work has commenced on the bridge that is to be built just outside DDL. Pre-stressed concrete piles have already been driven at the bridge site, according to Archer, but he said that in order for the bulk of the work to begin, GT&T poles which currently line the roadway along the bridge site first need to be removed. Bridge Engineer Roy Collins added that once the utilities are removed the bridge will be completed in three two-month phases. The work has to be done in phases, he said, to facilitate the progression of work, while still allowing traffic to flow in both directions. This is necessary since there is no way to redirect traffic from this area, Archer told this newspaper.

In the initial phase, the western lanes of the bridge will be constructed and a pedestrian walkway will also be installed. The structures will be 5.6 metres in width, with the roadway being 3.6 metres, the pedestrian walkway being one metre and a one-metre barrier separating the walkway from the roadway. While work progresses on this section of the new bridge, the old section will remain open to facilitate traffic as per normal.

In the second phase, one of the two lanes of the the newly completed western section of the bridge will be opened to north bound traffic while one lane of the old bridge will remain open to south-bound traffic.  The remaining lane of the old bridge will then be demolished to facilitate the continuation of the new bridge’s construction. This tactic, Collins explained, will minimise disruptions in the flow of traffic.

The final phase will see the remaining section of the old bridge destroyed and the completion of the last section of the bridge, which will then be tied into the other parts of the bridge. The parts to be used in the construction of the bridge will all be precast in Unity, East Coast Demerara, and then transported to the building site as needed. This tactic is also aimed at minimising traffic disruptions.

These works cannot commence, however, so long as the GT&T utility poles, located on both sides of the bridge site are not removed. There are also barriers in the vicinity of the site which can impede the work. Collins, who also worked on bridges from Timehri to Rosignol in 2005, says these projects were not as complicated because there were always ways to re-direct traffic.

The lack of the option in this project will make the construction of the bridge the most complicated aspect of BK’s responsibilities on the lot. Archer also revealed that DDL will be required to temporarily shut down its Topco Juice plant, since a part of the bridge works includes the re-location of a factory pipe.  Just last week, DDL also shut down its rum distilling plant to facilitate works that were ongoing in the vicinity of the plant. Lot One of the project runs from the National Stadium at Providence to the Water Treatment Plant at Covent Garden and was awarded to Dipcon Engineering Services, while Lot Two, which stretches from Covent Garden to Little Diamond, was awarded to General Earth Movers in association with GIACO Construction. Lots One and Two were said to be 30% and 35% complete, respectively a few weeks ago, but Rahaman has said that they too have begun moving apace.

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