– Expressions of Interest to be sought from today, community consultations soon
By Navendra Seoraj
GUYANA’S infrastructural transformation is expected to be catalysed by the construction of a new ‘fly-over’ Demerara Harbour Bridge which will stretch from Nandy Park on the East Bank of Demerara (EBD) to La Grange on the West Bank of Demerara (WBD).
The new four-lane high-span bridge, which is scheduled to be completed in three years after the commencement of work, will replace the existing structure which was built in 1976, over four decades ago.
“There is no time and we cannot have too many time lapses… the current bridge is limping along and that is a nice way to put it,” said President, Dr. Irfaan Ali following an inspection of the site for the new bridge, on Saturday.
Hundreds of vehicles traverse the existing structure on a daily basis, and, with a growing population, this traffic will only increase.
President Ali, who was accompanied by Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill and Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, Deodat Indar, during the inspection, said the existing harbour bridge received limited maintenance over the past five years.
“Over the past five years there has been limited maintenance of that bridge and it is becoming a big bother for commuters… the amount of man hours that is lost is tremendous… so we are pushing ahead with this,” said President Ali.
In further justifying his seriousness about the speedy commencement of construction of the new bridge, President Ali said government will be seeking Expressions of Interest (EoIs) starting today. The appropriate advertisement which will be published in the newspapers, daily, until December 2020.
The President explained that it is a public advertisement and anyone would be able to put in his/her expression.
“We have to complete this bridge within four years, and in my estimation, within three years we should be having that bridge, a fixed four-lane high span bridge,” said President Ali.
While the bridge is the main focus, the President said the transportation plan is not just a “connection plan” as the project will also include “service/feeder” roads to support the main highways.
“The alignment would connect to a four-lane alignment on Haags Bosch or Bagotville Road and that will be developed into a four-lane facility between the new four-lane (Ogle-East Bank bypass road) and what will be the older four-lane,” said the President, noting that there will be possibilities for other alignments.
The interconnections created by the new project will allow for a smooth flow of traffic and even create an alternative linkage between the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) and EBD.
Considering those benefits, President Ali said the site presents a fairly good development path, as the bridge has to come with a “gradual gradient,” and will ‘fly over’ the main road and land into Nandy Park.
Given that the bridge will pass over residential properties, the President said an inter-agency committee, which will come into effect this week, will be tasked with meeting residents and identifying all the areas which will require attention.
The President said there is no specific time limit for those consultations, as they could last for the entire life of the project.
Residents were elated by the President’s visit and were even more excited about the announcement of the plans for the new bridge. Some of the residents even said a new structure over the river is long overdue.
Both Ministers Edghill and Indar said the project is a key aspect of development and will provide much-needed relief to the travelling public.
The APNU+AFC administration, after it assumed office in 2015, had said that it would be feasible to have the existing bridge untouched and to construct another link somewhere in the vicinity of the existing link.
The former government had commissioned a feasibility study, which was awarded to Dutch Company, LivenseCSO.
The awarding of that contract was marred in controversy, with Auditor General, Deodat Sharma flagging major breaches of Guyana’s financial laws.
The move by the Audit Office to “investigate” the project came after the completion of an investigation by the Public Procurement Commission (PPC) in 2018.
The PPC report made clear that there were indeed deviations from standard procurement procedures. It was noted that several companies had submitted bids for the project, with 12 companies being shortlisted. The report added that only two of the 12 companies made proposals. As a consequence, the bidding process was annulled.
In November 12, 2016, the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) approved the move for the project to be re-tendered, but that was not done. The company ultimately got the contract with Cabinet’s blessings.