Harbour Bridge to be closed for several days to change panels

Rawlston Adams

The Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) will most likely be completely closed off to marine and vehicular traffic for about three to five days in order to facilitate the changing of panels, General Manager of the Company, Rawlston Adams said on Thursday.

Giving his presentation on the bridge company’s performance this year, Adams pointed out that as part of their plans for 2018, the bridge will likely be closed for three to five days.

“…We are reviewing and looking at changing some of the panels on the bridge that are damaged. We were able to harvest some of the panels that came off of the bridges on the railway embankment and we will do some changing because we have some new panels and the intention is to change them. The problem with that work is that it is likely to shut the bridge down for three to five days and I mean shut it down totally to both marine and vehicular traffic and that is not a good option for us and the country,” Adams said, while pointing out that they are currently exploring options to have the time reduced to two days and once they have made a final decision they will announce it.

Along with that major project, the DHB also plans on rehabilitating six large pontoons and 15 regular ones; fabricating 40 buoys, 30,000 feet of wire ropes and 20,000 feet of galvanized anchor chain and rehabilitating the traffic office, which is expected to cost some $267 million all together.

In terms of the revenue collected over the last year, the company was able to record a 51.5 percent increase, which Adams attributed to the increase in tolls. In 2016, the company was able to garner $530.5 million from marine and vehicular tolls and other income as compared to $803.9 million this year.

“This is no surprise. It’s not that the traffic has grown exponentially, it’s just that last year we had a toll increase and that is what is reflected there as increased revenue,” Adams noted.

However, as it relates to expenditure, the company has recorded a 38% increase. In 2016, $512.6 million was expended, as compared to $707.6 million this year.

Despite an increase in revenue, Adams also pointed out that for the first time in almost a decade the company has recorded a decline in traffic. For 2016, the company recorded 3,599,969 transits, as compared to 3,525,657 this year, a decrease of more than 74,000, which represents about two percent.

For marine traffic, in 2016 1,243 vessels crossed as compared to 1,124 this year, a difference of 119 or approximately nine percent.

“Vehicular traffic for the first time in about nine years went down, just about two percent. Our daily average went down about 1.8 percent too and I think that is because we are at the saturation point. What we have seen, and we will go back and check these numbers to find out what is really driving this, but we suspect that the congestion on the roads are causing the decrease,” Adams said.

He also explained that they will review the numbers to determine whether the toll increase has also had an impact on the decrease in traffic over the year.

Adams also noted that they were able to reduce the retraction time for the bridge by three minutes, bringing it down from 60 to 57 minutes.

“All works were completed on the retractor span so we were basically focused on the pontoons for the retractor spans. We are presently now installing anchor blocks and that will complete the major maintenance works for the retractor span,” Adams said.

During the year, while fixing the retractor span, the DHB had faced issues that resulted in the works being delayed for an extra two days which caused major traffic congestion on both sides of the bridge. “…We were able to rebuild the winch and have it operational since then and I can update you to say that we have sourced all the necessary components to rehabilitate the additional winches. We even signed a contract to have a spare winch available so that we can go ahead and replace those components and those works will be scheduled for 2018,” Adams added, while noting that the company is on track according to their work plan.

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