Gov’t prepared to subsidise tolls for new Demerara Bridge – Patterson

If recommended, government is prepared to subsidise the tolls for the new Demerara Bridge crossing, Minister of Public Infrastructure David Patterson said yesterday.

“If the Demerara River Bridge crossing financials work out that we have to give an equal subsidy to the residents of region 4, 2, 3 and all users of that bridge, so be it. That is our responsibility,” Patterson told an Alliance For Change (AFC) press conference.

Patterson also informed that even as government seeks out an investor for the bridge, his ministry has already asked the Ministry of Finance for “enough monies to cover” all the preparatory works, including the approach roads.

“It is eleven kilometers of road and we have asked for enough monies to cover eleven kilometers of road. We have asked for enough money… for any acquisition of property, any further detailed studies… so we have asked for enough money to start the works,” he stated.

David Patterson

However, he did not give a specific figure since he explained that it was only a budgetary request.

Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo on Wednesday said that several concerns need to be urgently addressed by government, including funding and land acquisition. Jagdeo said more information is needed on the project before the government goes ahead. “The government needs to tell us now how much money they would put into this project and where it would come from,” he said as he noted that estimates for the project are between US$150 million and US$180 million.

Jagdeo also questioned the decision to situate the bridge between Houston, on the East Bank and Versailles, on the West Bank, while alleging that former People’s National Congress Reform executive and businessman Stanley Ming owns most of the land on the West Bank of Demerara that government will have to purchase.

Asked if he had evidence that Ming was the owner of the property to be bought by government, Jagdeo answered in the affirmative.

“Mr. Stanley Ming made a presentation in 2015 named ‘Guyana 2030.’ He was a member of APNU… in his plan, he had two bridges to be built across the Demerara River; one further up and one at Houston-Versailles. So, miraculously, now this feasibility study finds that location the most feasible,” Jagdeo said.

“Guess whose land [is] on the Versailles side [where] the bridge terminates? Mister Stanley Ming. So, this is another miracle,” he added.

When contacted, Ming told Stabroek News that he was traveling but would address the matter when he returns later this month.

Patterson yesterday noted that he anticipates minimal disruption to homes occupied by persons near the proposed bridge location.

“The implications for Pritipaul Singh is nil, for Muneshwer’s, if any, no more than 20 meters of his land, there are two or three houses in the way but not in the way that we can’t do without it. Merely it is because I don’t think they would be comfortable living in such close proximity to the bridge. Obviously, if persons don’t want to sell, we won’t force them. Finally, the one thing I do know is that there is a nursery school on the bank (West Bank of Demerara), not in the way but …same, the noise and so,” Patterson explained.

“We met all the players and we said, ‘This is what we are doing, this is what you can expect and they have said practically okay. The only person is worried is the Leader of the Opposition,” Patterson added.

The proposed bridge is expected to be approximately 2 kilometers north of the existing floating bridge, spanning Houston on the eastern bank of the Demerara River to Versailles on the western bank of the Demerara River. The project will see the construction of an approximately 1,500m-long fixed bridge with a movable span and two approach roads of a total length of 600m. It is envisaged that the project will commence in 2018 and will be delivered in 2020.

Three locations were identified in 2013 for the proposed bridge and four more alignments were subsequently considered. A prefeasibility study was done and all the options remained.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure last month announced that it will be soon embarking on the process of pre-qualifying contractors for the construction of a new Demerara River Bridge.

According to a statement issued by the ministry, contractors will be pre-qualified for the finance, design, building, and maintenance components of the new bridge.

The Ministry of Public Infrastructure has shared a video of the proposed bridge concept and design on its Facebook page and its website.

In that video, Rawlston Adams, current Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation General Manager and this Project’s Manager, informed that government had conducted a public stakeholder engagement, which was held at the Pegasus Hotel last year, and that following that it received 15 expressions of interest in the project.

From that list, he explained, three companies would be shortlisted and they would be invited to submit bids.

“We had a very good turnout… I am pleased to announce that we have had 15 companies that have shown interest in the prequalification. We have had companies from Holland, China, India, France, Panama, the United Kingdom and Trinidad and Tobago. We will then conduct evaluations and shortlist three contractors, who will then be invited to submit bids for this process. We will be conducting the environmental studies, that is expected to commence shortly,” Adams explained.

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