The proposed $2 billion bridge across the Demerara River at Linden will replace the current shoddy one linking Wismar to Mackenzie and the news of the project has received a resounding welcome from residents.
In addition to easing traffic congestion that occurs along the current bridge—due to it being capable of only facilitating one lane of traffic at a time—Lindeners also hope that the new project will provide needed jobs for the community.
“The bridge is very much needed because the existing one has been around for ages and had its last upgrade in 2010,” Linden Mayor Carwyn Holland told Stabroek News yesterday.
“It will serve as the link, the gateway into Guyana’s interior and mining districts by land and access to Lethem…you cannot have a new road to Lethem and not have a proper bridge that is part of the route… then you have to look at it, we will also get jobs from the construction,” he added.
Junior Minister of Public Infrastructure Annette Ferguson told Stabroek News, in an interview last week, that the construction of the bridge is part of the proposals for the United Kingdom’s $16B grant for infrastructure development here.
Guyana has been allocated £53.2 million (around $16 billion) by the UK under its £300 million United Kingdom Caribbean Infrastructure Fund (UKCIF).
UKCIF is an ambitious investment undertaken by the UK, which will provide grant funding to improve or create new infrastructure, such as roads, bridges and ports, to help drive economic growth and development in nine countries across the Caribbean region. UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced the launch of the fund during a trip to Jamaica last September.
Stabroek News reported in April that the APNU+AFC government has identified and submitted project proposals for six major infrastructure development programmes to the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), which is responsible for administering the Fund.
Previously, the Ministry of Finance had announced that the funds will be applied to six major infrastructure programmes, including waterfront development, water supply improvement and solid waste management. “The identified interventions will see improved road networks, bridges, stellings and waterfronts, rehabilitation of airstrips, reliable access to potable water and reduced energy costs as well as tackle the environmental and health risks associated with the improper disposal of waste,” it had said. This was echoed by Ferguson, who gave a breakdown of how government plans to utilise the funding and pointed to, among other projects, the construction of the bridge at Linden.
Holland explained that government was told of problems experienced at Linden with the current bridge and a request was made by the region for a new one. He said the new bridge will form part of Linden’s and by extension government’s economic access plans for the linkage to the hinterland by land.
“This is the major transshipment access points to the interior because to go to regions 7, 8, and 9, you will have to cross this bridge. All the mining districts use it for overland travel but the bridge is old and you have to see how it is used,” he said.
“The bridge cannot withstand two lanes of traffic or heavy traffic. So, the vehicles crossing on either side will have to wait and one, one they have to cross. So, you see it will help with the delays experienced by commuters… all this, notwithstanding, the safety of vehicles that are crossing the river,” he added.
According to Holland, the current maintenance cost of the bridge is huge and an investment in a new bridge also saves on those recurring costs.
“We had a meeting with NICIL only today concerning the old bridge. It is due for major repairs, because the last time some works were done on it was by Courtney Benn in 2010…looking at if it was to be rehabilitated and maintained, what would be the cost… it is very expensive,” he asserted.
He also pointed out that the possible job creation from the construction cannot be underscored enough. “Lindeners will be very happy and excited not just for the replacement …it will create needed jobs for us here. That aspect we are very grateful and looking forward to,” he added.