Demerara Harbour Bridge to see less retractions, reduced speed limit

Minister of Public Work, Juan Edghill during a recent inspection of the DHB
Minister of Public Work, Juan Edghill during a recent inspection of the DHB

Several measures are being implemented at the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) to facilitate maintenance work, following damage to the structural integrity of span nine.

Minister of Public Works, Juan Edghill on Sunday engaged technical staff of the DHB and was updated on the emergency works going forward after a series of analyses were conducted.

Minister Edghill said remedying the situation is Government’s priority since the bridge is essential to the lives of all Guyanese, especially those who traverse daily for work or business.

“Every effort is being made to ensure that we could get vehicles crossing the bridge, supplies can move from the east to the west and vice versa, people can get to work, and we can respond to medical and security emergencies.”

To this end, the Minister said the usual number of daily retractions would be reduced.

“The bridge cannot be opening two times a day. We have already engaged the agents and owners of ocean-going vessels and we want that every time there is a retraction, there must be about five to six vessels passing.

The fact that they have to slow down it means that the retractions will take a little longer than normal. We are looking at opening and closing to allow vessels to transit at times when its less impacting to vehicular traffic, which will be at nights.”

It must be noted that there would not be any retraction between 2pm and 5pm, as this will help to create a smooth flow during the “rush hour” period.

In some instances, however, Minister Edghill noted that there are times the bridge will be opened during the day to facilitate tugs and barges, which are not safe to transit at nights. He said an analysis of the traffic pattern is being conducted and a schedule would be established.

The Minister also said there are plans to place traffic police at strategic points along the bridge with radar speed guns to monitor drivers’ speed, while other methods are being sought for the same strategy to be used for river traffic.

Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn has already been notified of the new approach.

“We have to get these measures in place in a matter of hours and we are working around the clock,” Minister Edghill relayed.

He pointed out that while the damage to the bridge is caused by both vehicular and marine traffic, it is caused mostly by speeding heavy trucks and the application of sudden brakes.

The Minister said consideration is also being given to ferrying heavy-duty vehicles across the river by barge, and private sector operatives have already indicated their willingness to aid in this regard. However, landing spots on both the east and west banks of the river remain a challenge.

Meanwhile, Engineer, Mr. Marcel Gaskin, explained that the DHB has outlived its lifespan and is showing signs of serious wear and tear. He said the approach to fixing the issues would be done over short and long-term phases, even as plans are streamlined to establish the new Demerara River bridge.

Mr. Gaskin said this includes replacing the retractor span [a retractor span opens and closes to allow large vessels to pass]. Currently, span nine is worse than span ten, but both have suffered severe damage. Mr. Gaskin predicts that the situation should be fixed over a six-month period.

Highlighting some of the short-term measures, the engineer noted that the “roller cards” will be replaced. These are the underside protection which are located at the area that opens and closes the bridge.

“We have to design and install what we call an exoframe, which is a frame to the outside of the existing bridge structure that is going to support those panels of the retractor spans that are broken. We have to procure spare static rollers and spare travelling rollers. All these are rollers that enable the bridge to open and close. We want to have spares, so in case anything happens to the existing ones we have those in place,” Mr. Gaskin added.

Meanwhile, Minister Edghill apologised for the inconvenience caused during the traffic backup on Saturday, saying that the closure of the bridge between the period of 11:30 to 1 pm was to allow the pins to be fixed.

However, the one and a half hour of maintenance work did not remedy the problem at span nine.

“All it did was to allow us to fix one of the 272 pins to get the bridge into some shape to allow for retractions for marine traffic and to keep vehicular traffic moving.

We have had to start releasing trucks on the bridge at intervals and the fact that they are going at intervals it has caused a buildup. We also have a situation where marine traffic, because some of them are moving with such speed and creating waves, they are causing the misalignment on the bridge,” the Minister said. Inspection on the bridge continues daily. [Extracted and Modified from DPI]