The design of the new Demerara River bridge will see a significantly reduced wait time for commuters during openings, Project Manager Rawlston Adams says.
“This old bridge is a floating bridge which retracts; it slides across to open. The new bridge is not a retraction bridge, it is a solid concrete bridge that is a lift bridge… so expect waiting time to be significantly reduced,” Adams told Stabroek News in an interview.
“We expect the process to last for a maximum waiting period of 15 minutes, because of the technology and other factors involved.
The waiting times will not be like this bridge [the current Demerara Harbour Bridge] or the one at Berbice where you have to wait one hour or hour and a half,” he added.
The new bridge will land on the banks of the Demerara River at Versailles on the western side and at Houston, a short distance from Pritipaul Singh Investments, on the eastern side. Connecting approach roads will then link it to the East and West Bank of Demerara public roads.
Government has invited companies to prequalify to finance, design, build and maintain the new crossing, which is to comprise an approximately 1500m-long fixed bridge with a movable span. It is envisaged that the project will commence in 2018 and will be delivered in 2020.
Adams explained that “at one time many moons ago,” a high-rise bridge that would not require opening schedules was being considered. However, due to the engineering requirements, it would have had to have been landed not on the banks of the river but over the main roadways. Because of financial and other constraints, it was decided that a mid-level bridge would be built instead.
Persons have queried why a decision was not made to continue maintaining the old bridge until enough revenue was acquired from expected oil revenues and other sources to build a high level bridge.
“The money will be coming then but we have the need for a new bridge now. What do we do? …No one knows what the future holds,” Adams, however, said.
He added that there is a growing demand to replace the old bridge, especially in light of the growth of the population on the west bank of the river and the current delays experienced by commuters who use it.
The current bridge also costs hundreds of millions annually in maintenance.
Having worked on the Berbice Bridge as an engineer and serving as current General Manager of the Demerara Harbour Bridge Company, Adams assured that the citizenry would be getting a “solid bridge with a significant difference.”
“How is it different? With the new bridge there is a fixed concrete structure. This is no floating bridge. The current bridge and [the] Berbice bridge are both floating. Put it like this, the current bridge type is the older model and Berbice is a new technology kind of floating bridge. The decking and trusses are much deeper but the principle is the same. With both, you cannot have traffic on the bridge because it has to retract.
This one you can have traffic up to a point. There are stop signs at an interval. So you come on the bridge, they say stop, you stop, the bridge pulls up… so you are able now to come and park much closer… we pull up, the vessel passes under, we put down, we say go and you gone,” he explained.
Chief Transport and Planning Officer Patrick Thompson added that the new mid-level bridge would allow trawlers, and all tugs and barges to pass under without the need for an opening. “…They are free to transit all the time. That is not the case now because you have to open for trawler, open for tug and barge and so forth.
“This is how this is different from the current bridge. The new bridge will be an even greater technology because we expect it to be a concrete fixed bridge. A vessel colliding into the bridge is also significantly reduced and if it does, God forbid, because it is solid concrete and the foundation is solid, damage [would] also [be] minimal,” he explained.
Adams said too that he wanted to make clear that it is not the retraction of the current bridge that is the main contributor to the hour-long waiting periods for commuters but the antecedent factors that would have had to be initiated.
“People complain terribly without understanding the process. The procedure for you to transit the Demerara Harbour Bridge requires a lot of operational procedures to be followed. This is what causes the delays. One procedure is that all vessels transiting through must anchor one mile away, be it on which side. And because it is a floating bridge, we have to clear the bridge of all the traffic. So when DHB says we are closing at 2.30, sometimes we close off on the east but there are vehicles that are already on the bridge and we have to wait for the bridge to be cleared.
“That can take 10 to 15 minutes. Then remember the rule that the ship has to anchor one mile away. So when that is done, the bridge has to open. Adams now says to the ship prepare to transit and only then he picks up his anchor to start moving,” he explained.
“It is not a minibus, when he picks up his anchor he cannot stop. So we have to wait until he transits… passes safely before we can close and then give the go ahead for traffic to resume. Imagine we have to do that every day for all trawlers and tugs.
“You see it is not the retraction itself taking that hour and half, it is the process… we know that this will be eliminated when we have the new bridge,” he added.