Government is preparing to start infrastructural works that are needed ahead of the planned construction of a bridge across the Corentyne to link Guyana and neighbouring Suriname.
The works, estimated to cost around $913M, include the upgrade of a road at a cost of $735M and the construction of bridges and culverts to the tune of $160M. Bids have already been received for some of the works.
The roadway, which spans some 2.8 kilometres from the Molson Creek Primary School to the bridge site, will be transformed into an asphalt road.
“We have to do these works as part of the bargain on our end, in preparation for landing of the bridge. We have to build the road and culverts and bridges… in the meantime we have to be ready,” Minister of Public Works Robeson Benn told Stabroek News in an interview.
According to Benn, construction of the asphalt road and the building of bridges and culverts will be beneficial in the interim and they would be used by persons who have now taken up farming on lands in the area. “There is a school and there are new farmlands being opened there. These works will be very beneficial to those people who are farming and so forth there,” he said. “In any event, there is an old road or dam, if you call it that, with wooden bridges which is now being used so these will be upgraded and the people will use it until the bridge kicks in, whenever that is,” he added.
Surveying is now being done along areas in the path of the projected roadway and the contractors have been put on notice to start preparations for the works, such as ensuring they have adequate supplies of stone, steel and other needed materials.
However, it is still unclear when the construction of the bridge will begin, although in February of this year Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett had announced that a Chinese company had been identified as the contractor.
She had said too that the Chinese government had agreed to fund the project and that both she and her Suriname counterpart, Winston Lackin, were supportive of the initiative.
The project will be supplemented by the US$3 billion concessional loan that China offered to Caricom in June of last year. Currently, a design for the bridge is being finalised by the Chinese company but the full cost has not been established. For now a ferry service and speedboats are the crossing options.
The idea to build a bridge was the result of an engagement between former President Bharrat Jagdeo and Surinamese President Desi Bouterse in 2010.
Jagdeo had said that a clear case had been made for the bridge’s construction when one looks at the time taken to travel using the ferry service. “If you look at all the time wasted and you put a cost to that time, it makes the project feasible. It may pay back for the project itself, just from cutting the time wasted,” Jagdeo had said.