Contract signed, two-year deadline for US$260M Demerara River bridge
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Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Works, Vladim Persaud (seated at left), and a representative of the China Railway Construction Corporation sign the contract for the project, in the presence of Cabinet members and other officials. (Delano Williams photos) 
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Public Works, Vladim Persaud (seated at left), and a representative of the China Railway Construction Corporation sign the contract for the project, in the presence of Cabinet members and other officials. (Delano Williams photos) 

HAILED as the largest public infrastructure project undertaken in Guyana, the government, on Wednesday, signed a US$260 million contract for the construction of the new Demerara River Bridge at the Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara (EBD) site where the eastern end of the bridge will land.

Deodat Indar, Minister within the Ministry of Public Works, told those gathered for the occasion that, for many years, there were promises of a new Harbour Bridge as the current one has surpassed its lifespan.

He noted that while the current Demerara Harbour Bridge is being managed and maintained to ensure that the very necessary link between Regions 3 (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara) and 4 (Demerara-Mahaica) is present, the government has made a promise to prioritise the construction of a new bridge.

“His Excellency, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Dr Irfaan Ali has, today, made that promise in the manifesto a reality, with this historic signing of the agreement to construct a New Demerara Harbour Bridge,” Minister Indar proclaimed.

A cleared section of land at Nandy Park, EBD where the eastern end of the new bridge is expected to be laid.

The construction cost of US$260 million, he added, was the negotiated amount that came following a process of competitive bidding and rigorous evaluation. A joint venture of Chinese companies, led by China Railway Construction Corporation, emerged successful in the procurement process.

The new bridge, according to Minister Indar, is expected to be 2.65 kilometres with the width of the driving surface being around 23.6 meters, with two carriageways and four lanes.

The bridge is a hybrid design with the high span or navigation span having a cable stay design, Minister Indar noted. The vertical height of the fixed bridge is said to be constructed at some 50 meters from the mean highest watermark which means that large size vessels would be able to pass freely under the bridge.

The bridge, which is said to have a design lifespan of 100 years, is expected to also have cycling lanes, among other features.

Transforming Guyana 
Delivering feature remarks at the event was Senior Minister with responsibility for Finance, Dr Ashni Singh, who said the ceremony may be simple and devoid of pomp, but that history was being witnessed.

“We are witnessing history today! And, not history in the sense of a one-off isolated project, but history in the sense of a major transformative project that is part of a much larger, comprehensive plan to transforming Guyana,” the minister for finance said.

For Dr Singh, a modern Guyana is well underway with today’s generation holding a seat of privilege to witness and be active participants in the transformation.

Minister Singh explained there are other contracts signed for several transformative projects. The US$190 million contract for the Linden to Mabura Hill Road, part of the first phase to connect Linden to Lethem and further connect Guyana to Brazil, was one such project mentioned.

He added that it was just weeks ago that contracts were also signed for the construction of 32 concrete bridges along the alignment of the remainder of the road from Kurupukari to Lethem.

Singh said: “Today’s signing also comes at a time when we are about to launch the procurement process for a new road from the alignment of this bridge on the West Demerara side to Crane, and [also] when we are at an advanced stage of designing a new highway from Schoonard on the West Bank of Demerara to Parika on the Essequibo River.”

Years in the Making 
Meanwhile, Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill, echoed similar sentiments as Dr Singh, mentioning that while history was in the making, it had been a long and challenging road to get to this point.

He noted that the signing was the culmination of almost ten years of planning dating back to March 2013 when former Minister of Public Works, Robeson Benn, commissioned a pre-feasibility study to examine the pertinence of the construction of a new fixed bridge across the Demerara River.

In 2017, that Ministry also commissioned feasibility studies examining eight possible locations, including the current Nandy Park to La Grange alignment, for the construction of the new bridge.

“We are here to sign the largest contract for a transport infrastructure project ever financed by the Government of Guyana, and I think we need to celebrate this,” Minister Edghill said.

From 2013 to 2022, the average daily traffic across the demerara river, he noted, increased from approximately 13,781 vehicles to some 22,000 vehicles in both directions.

While the increased traffic has caused congestion and frustration for stranded commuters, the project is expected to ease those woes.

Minister Edghill told those gathered that it was President, Dr Irfaan Ali who placed great importance on and prioritised the project since entering office on August 2, 2020.

He said that just a few weeks after entering office, President Ali walked the alignment to ensure that the government had a full observation and understanding of the project.

“We did not get here by chance; a lot of work was done. Less than a week after the President walked this alignment with a team that included myself (sic) and my colleague minister Indar, we set up a high-level technical working group comprising of mostly public sector stakeholders,” Edghill explained.

The Minister said that the working group aimed to remove all barriers and pave the way for the construction of the bridge at the site.

The project initially went out to public tender and attracted some 14 bidders who were pre-qualified for the construction of the bridge. Eventually, nine firms were pre-qualified and invited to submit proposals. Following several months of engagement, five of the prequalified bidders submitted proposals on October 21, 2021.

“The signing of this contract today is truly monumental and will lead to construction activities never before witnessed in our urban space,” the Minister noted further.

He went on to underscore that government expects the project to be delivered to the people of Guyana within the next two years.

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