Edghill urges Patterson to come clean on annulment of 3-lane Demerara Bridge

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Following media reports of Government’s move to scrap a previous proposal largely centered on establishing a new three-lane, open format bridge as a replacement for the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) in favour of a four-lane, fixed high level bridge, Member of Parliament for the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Juan Edghill is urging the Administration to come clean on the matter.

Former Junior Finance Minister, Juan Edghill

“I am surprised that, with a project of such magnitude, the Minister of Public Infrastructure did not notify the Guyanese people that the project as envisaged for the three-lane bridge would conclude by way of an annulment,” Edghill declared.

“The last words of the Minister were that three companies would be selected from the companies who bid, and they would be asked to submit proposals, including for financing the bridge. And he had given a particular timeline,” Edghill reminded.

According to Edghill, this development is indicative of three things: that the Government has no policy direction in the public infrastructure sector; that Govt is prone to making ad hoc decisions; and that Govt follows a pattern of annulling tenders.

He was at this juncture referring to the Guyana Power and Light’s (GPL’s) $3 billion tender for the installation of smart meters and transmission lines which Government annulled a few months ago.

“It would appear that unless they get a specific outcome, or they are allowed to get away with their underhand dealings, their (preference) is to annul and start all over. If it was the case where they wanted a four-lane, six-span bridge, we of the PPP have been saying to them that is the way to go. They were talking about cost,” Edghill explained.

“Why would the Government want to invest US$170 million on a three-lane, retractable bridge? And we always wanted to know why. But they have been caught with their pants down, and the only way they can deal with it is annul and go for a four-lane bridge. I would specifically like to hear the Minister of Public Infrastructure give the rationale for the annulment,” he declared.

Minister of Public Infrastructure, David Patterson

Edghill questioned why Government was only now going for the four-lane bridge model. He also queried at what level the decision to annul the tender was made, and what led to the annulment.

Attempts by this publication to make contact with Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson and junior subject Minister Annette Ferguson were futile.

Last year, a feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River Bridge had reportedly cost some $146.3 million. It was presented to Minister within the Public Infrastructure Ministry, Annette Ferguson.

The 57-page final report was done by Dutch company LievenseCSO. The project team had included officials from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation and Transport and Harbours Department.

It is understood that the feasibility study had determined the proposed location of Houston-Versailles was the most ideal. It is also understood that a low-level bridge with a movable part and three-lanes was recommended for construction.

Another study had been completed in 2013, when the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation had collaborated with the then Public Works Ministry to carry out a pre-feasibility analysis.

That study had concluded that a ‘fixed, high level’ bridge was the best option to pursue, rather than the retractable model, echoing the most recent recommendations made by Consultants Rameshwar.

The “fixed, high level” option would ensure that traffic would be able to flow even while boats passed underneath the structure. The bridge presently operates according to schedule in order to cater for marine traffic.

There have traditionally been lengthy traffic lines during rush hour, as motorists hurry to catch the bridge before it closes. It was to solve these traffic woes and to cater for the advanced age of the Demerara Harbour Bridge structure that a new bridge has been contemplated.

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