Concerns remain over gap along Hope bridge

Users of the Hope, East Coast Demerara bridge remain uneasy over a growing gap along the structure and are calling on the authorities to have it fixed as soon as possible.

In recent months, a particular approach to the $350M bridge has settled significantly, creating a separation from the bridge and posing traffic woes and over the past month the bridge’s condition has not improved.

“That thing got to bruk down and build back again because it just getting worse. They got to make it run straight down, not make it like how they put it so,” a resident who uses the bridge daily told Stabroek News.

A truck crossing over the gap on eastern end of the bridge
A truck crossing over the gap on eastern end of the bridge

The man, who did not want to be named, pointed out that they would often patch the bridge with asphalt in a bid to prevent the separation from getting larger. However, he pointed out that within weeks the bridge would return to its deplorable condition, which would hinder the flow of traffic.

In July, State Minister Joseph Harmon had said that the Ministry of Public Infrastructure was effecting remedial works to the bridge.

“When you come here during the morning is a long, long line you does see because nobody can’t drive over the thing fast. People does got to drive slow, slow to go over because nobody ain’t want damage they vehicle,” the man pointed out, while stating that when the traffic is heavy, the bridge would cause extra congestion since vehicles would slow down before crossing.

The man pointed out that several cyclists have fallen off of their cycles before because of the separation. “Them man that don’t know about the bridge does come riding over fast and I even see some of them fall off before but lucky nobody didn’t coming behind them,” the man pointed out.

“I only hope that one day it ain’t get so bad that vehicles can’t past ‘cause this bridge does hold nuff, nuff traffic. I hope one day that a car driving and it separate and something happen too,” another driver, Damien (only name given), related to Stabroek News.

The drivers and residents are pleading with the authorities to fix the bridge “properly” before its condition worsens.

The East Coast Demerara bridge, part of a huge drainage project, was commissioned on February 15, 2014 amid much fanfare by then president Donald Ramotar.

When asked about the defects liability period, Frederick Flatts, Engineer and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Drainage and Irrigation Authority (NDIA) within the Ministry of Agriculture, had told Stabroek News, “That period is long past.”

“Not as far as I am aware,” he further responded, when asked if the contractor was ever approached pertaining to remedying the fault. Flatts added, “I am not aware that the contractor made any fault.”

A car approaching the gap on the western end of the bridge.
A car approaching the gap on the western end of the bridge.

Ramotar had told Stabroek News that it is the current board of the NDIA that has to be held responsible as under his presidency the past board had withheld a portion of the contractor’s payment, which could have been used towards the defects, but the current board released all.

The contract for the bridge was awarded to DIPCON Engineering Company to the tune of $349.6M.

Stabroek News has been trying to contact the management of the Trinidadian-owned DIPCON over the past month for comment, to no avail.

Minister of Agriculture Noel Holder has, however, said that DIPCON had voiced reservations to the previous PPP/C government in relation to the design of the structure but the concerns were ignored by the previous Board of Directors of the NDIA.

“The contractor apparently expressed hesitation in implementing the project. It is clear that the Board disregarded these concerns and proceeded in their haste to have the project commissioned for political purposes. This is unacceptable,” the minister was quoted as saying by the Government Information Agency (GINA) in August. “To now blame the current Board (of NDIA) for bad decision making is unethical and an attempt to score cheap political points,” he added.

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