-authorities mulling stiff penalties, say bridge will be closed again in March for further repairs
AS repairs works progressed as planned, Chair of the Demerara Habour Bridge board, Ravie Ramcharritar, on Sunday evening, said that speeding trucks are damaging the aging structure which was left weakened after an oil tanker slammed into it last October.
He made this disclosure shortly after Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill and his team viewed the ongoing works on the bridge which was closed early Sunday morning to facilitate urgent repairs.
The bridge official in his comments said that the structure is taking a “severe pounding” from speeding trucks and it has been decided that strict and harsh measures will be put in place to deal with those errant drivers.
Among the recommendations is the banning of those who consistently speed on the bridge.
In responding to questions from the media, Ramcharritar explained that when the drivers speed then hit brakes, they cause damage. He added that those vehicles, even when empty are very heavy.
Minister Edghill also expressed concern about this issue.
“I know you want to be able to maximise the amount of trips you make per day to deliver your sand or your stone, but if we continue to be reckless, sooner rather than later we will have no bridge,” he said.
With regards to the repairs, he said that everything that is happening on the bridge tells every Guyanese there is need for a new structure.
“This work that is going on here is just part of what will actually have to considered the sum total overall…we are dealing with span eight and we still have to replace the entire span nine and that is a more tedious, difficult and time-consuming job than dealing with…span eight,” he said, as he announced that sometime in March the bridge will have to be closed again to deal with span nine.
He took the opportunity to publicly thank his technical team, the bridge’s general manager, the engineers and technicians and the contractor and his team.
“They have done fantastic work of getting this bridge functional again after that accident but that was a quick fix and with that quick fix every time we use the bridge…with the speeding trucks and the tonnage, more and more damage [will] occur along the bridge…”, he said.
He recognised the inconvenience caused to citizens and thanked the public for their co-operation.
“I would like on behalf of the President and the cabinet, to express gratitude to all the citizens of Guyana for the peace, the calm, the understanding with which you conducted yourself while we get this going. With your co-operation and with your support we will be able to get span nine in place and we will be able to get this bridge structurally sound to be able to keep it moving until we get that high span four-lane new Demerara Habour Bridge,” he said.
Meanwhile, the bridge’s general manager Wayne Watson said that as at 20:00 hours the repairs were about 60 per cent completed. He said that a delay was caused when they realised that the collision had caused more damage to one of the panels than was initially thought.
He said that they had to regroup and sort out that issue which took about three and a half hours.
Watson added that with the ongoing emergency works, the previous estimate of $1 billion has increased.
“That was the initial estimate but as we get into the works, we recognise it is much more than that. I can’t say how much more but I know it is more than that,” he said.
Prior to his visit to the bridge, Minister Edghill visited the Georgetown Stelling and Vreed-en-Hoop stelling, to observe the situation and to engage boat operators and commuters.
Given the closure of the bridge, the Demerara Water Taxis Service remained operational.
According to a harbour master, the traffic flow was reasonable.
“The traffic was good because there was a steady flow of passengers, no buildup on either side,” the harbour master said.
He noted that the passenger movements were orderly.
“So, there was no clashing of passengers, no incidents,” he noted.
He explained that on Sunday morning, some operators were found trying to get more money from passengers.
He stated that these operators will be sanctioned for trying to raise the fare and that the suspension of the licences for a standard time of three weeks is being considered.
Minister Edghill acknowledged and gave thanks to the Commander of the Guyana Police Force, the Commander of the Region Three Division, the coastguard, and others who are overlooking the transport of persons between the stellings.
He explained that once the closure of the bridge was announced, Maritime Administrative Department, the Transport and Harbour Department, the GPF, the coastguard, and the Guyana Fire Service put the necessary measures in place to ensure that emergencies could be adequately handled.
“We have a standby river ambulance if anybody needs to be transferred to the Georgetown Public Hospital, that will not be a problem,” he noted.
The Public Works Minister shared that at that time, there were no reports of robbery, assault, or misbehaviour.
A passenger who travels regularly over the DHB, but had travel by boat given the bridge closure, told this publication that the amount of traffic was nothing compared to what one might see on a weekday.
“There was a reasonable amount of people traversing the stellings and I was really impressed with the ease of movement, both in foot traffic and the movement of vehicles at the Vreed-en-Hoop end,” she said.
She noted that at the Vreed-en-Hoop stelling, there was a heavy police presence along the road to the stelling, which helped to keep the traffic in order and also gave commuters a feeling of added security.
She said they needed the extra security because one “never knows who can take advantage of these situations.”
“I also saw that they already had floodlights set up for when night fell, so you felt like the whole thing will be safe.
“It was also nice to see that the boat operators were not taking advantage of the situation and charging $200 instead of the $100 they are supposed to charge,” she said.