An upgrade is expected for the planned New Demerara River crossing with government now looking at a four-lane bridge and an alignment that would not be cumbersome on the Versailles, West Coast Demerara side, sources say.
“It is not a change per se but it more of an upgrade because we have had proposals which suggested we look further at more modern suggestions,” one source told Stabroek News.
Previously a three-lane bridge was said to be the likely option.
“The New Demerara River Bridge that will connect Houston on the East Bank of Demerara and Versailles on the West Bank will be a medium level bridge with three vehicular lanes and a central moveable part in the form of a lift span to allow for the passage of ocean going vessels,” the Minis-try of Public Infrastructure had stated in a video on its Facebook page last year.
“While a number of other structural options were considered, including a high level bridge, it was determined through the feasibility study that a three lane bridge will adequately serve the current and future traffic demands,” the ministry had added.
The new proposed Demerara River Bridge 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 sometime this year and will be delivered in 2020.
On November 21st last, 11 companies submitted bids, with Chinese companies dominating the bidding.
Minister of Public Infra-structure, David Patterson, had last month said that the evaluation of bids for the project should be completed by the end of this May and the process will be moved into the next phase.
Project Manager Rawlston Adams had earlier explained that some companies seemed to “have interpreted the conditions and requirements of the contract differently,” which was reflected in their bids, while some offered “alternatives and or additives” in their respective tenders.
Sources explained that it was some of the eight Chinese companies, which are owned by the government of China, which sent in designs with cost and terms that “appears very favourable and warranted a second look” at the planned design.
“We are looking at some changes – and you have to understand that this project is still being evaluated so I can’t tell you everything – but the changes will be for better that I can assure you. The Bridge will land where GPL is on the West Coast. We might have to pay market value for the lands some persons own near there but we are trying our best to ensure we take a path of least resistance. We don’t want to disrupt people and if we do we want to ensure they at least get market value for their place,” one source said.
Stabroek News was told that Minister of Finance Winston Jordan, during his recent visit to China for that country’s 9th Inter-national Infrastructure and Construction Forum, had discussions with officials to gain more insight into the proposals by the Chinese companies.
Jordan told attendees at that forum of plans his government has for a fixed 4-lane bridge connecting major commercial and industrial regions but did not say if it was the New Demerara River Crossing.
However, this newspaper was told that the upgrade of the Demerara crossing is “almost sure”.
Chinese Ambassador to Guyana, Cui Jianchun earlier this year has said that the current proposal for the New Demerara River crossing was not modern and China should be given the opportunity to lend funds to build a “21st century” one.
At a University of Guyana forum where he was a guest speaker for a Renaissance Lecture on the topic ‘A new era for China and China-Guyana Relations’, Cui told attendees that he was not impressed with government’s proposal for the New Demerara River crossing.
“I am really concerned about the Demerara Bridge. So frankly speaking, I have talked to the Minister of Public Infra-structure, but I cannot tell the details, but I told them if we are still building a floating bridge, this is not 21st Century, he said.
“The minister told me, ‘We know in China your bridge …he visited the Hong Kong Mizxtuah Bridge so I asked him how we can we help… We don’t only have experience we have the build power. And also… we think that if we develop Guyana, we know oil and gas will be here in 2020. We think we could have the opportunity to invest more resources in the infrastructure industry and I do believe we could have brighter future’”, he added.
The Chinese Ambassador said that his government was not interested in the current design of the Demerara Bridge, because the design caters to a “1970” setting and not current day structures.
But Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson, had responded to the Chinese Ambassador saying that government here will not take on debt that could possibly shackle the country.
Patterson stressed that his government would not be lured into borrowing huge sums of money that would leave taxpayers under strain to repay in the future and was very mindful of similar situations in sister CARICOM nations.
“We are great friends and colleagues of the People’s Republic of China, and they have done some outstanding infrastructure projects over the year[s], however we have to always remember that they are the second largest economy in the world, and we, well we are a very far way away,” Patterson told Stabroek News in response to the Ambassador’s statement.
“If the Ambassador is offering the GoG (Government of Guyana) a grant, for example moneys that we do not have to repay, we will gladly accept this offer. However I am not impressed with the amount of moneys that will be required to fund his suggestions. We simply cannot afford it,” he added.
That position seems to have changed as one source explained, “I know what we said and what the Chinese Ambassador said. You don’t have to remind me. What I am telling you is that we have favourable proposals, favourable designs, favourable terms and project submissions that will not break the back of the Guyanese people. We are looking at them,” he said.