Proposed Demerara Bridge model not feasible – Region Three chambers
New Houston/Versailles Bridge
… says traffic woes will return
By Jarryl Bryan
A recent feasibility study undertaken by Dutch consultant LievenseCSO has recommended a retractable, low level Demerara River Bridge at a proposed site spanning Houston, EBD and Versailles, WBD, but an important stakeholder is of the view that the recommended model is not feasible.
In an interview with this publication, President of the Region Three (Essequibo Islands/West Demerara) Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Radesh Rameshwar, raised several concerns pertaining to the proposal. According to Rameshwar, the design will only cater for short term traffic control, rather than long term.
“We are very happy that the feasibility study has been completed, and we are happy to know that it would be three lanes,” Rameshwar said. “(But) we were hoping that it could be four lanes because, at the Demerara Harbour Bridge, which is two lanes, many times they have to close off traffic at the eastern or western end for both lanes to go one side, thereby hindering traffic from the other side.
“In my opinion, it will solve the problems we have now,” the business executive emphasized, “(with) two lanes for the peak and one lane coming from the other direction. But what is going to happen in 10 to 15 years from now? Every year we are having 10,000 vehicles on average entering this country.”
Rameshwar has said that with the amount of motorists expected to increase over the next decade, there will come a time when the very bridge being proposed would be inadequate. He used the present Demerara Harbour Bridge as an example.
“(That) bridge was built in the 70s, and at the time it was built, the volume of traffic was not that (much). Now, over the years, (the volume of traffic) has grown significantly, and that is what has caused the problems here,” he explained.
Rameshwar noted that a new bridge for the Demerara River would ease the problem for Region Three. “But we strongly believe that this is going to ease the problem probably for another ten years. With the amount of money we will be investing as tax payers to pay back the loan for this bridge, we feel that instead of a three-lane, it should have been a four-lane (bridge).”
Fixed vs retractable
The feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River Bridge, which had reportedly cost some $146.3 million, was on Wednesday 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 determined that the proposed location of Houston-Versailles was the most ideal. It was further noted that the bridge should be a low-level one with a movable part and three lanes. But Rameshwar pointed out that this still leaves the problem of traffic build-ups.
“That obviously is going to hold back traffic,” he said. “It is going to continue to disrupt traffic and disrupt business people in Region Three. Because of the limitations of the Demerara Harbour Bridge and the volume of traffic, business on the West Coast has been affected.
“Many times you have to put aside an entire day if you just want to go to Georgetown to procure some items to bring it back over the West Coast, because of the bridge and the traffic situation,” the executive observed.
Another study had been done back 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 recommendations of today made by Rameshwar.
The “fixed high level” option would ensure that traffic would be able to flow even while boats passed underneath the structure. At present, the bridge operates according to schedules, in order to cater for riverine traffic.
This has traditionally resulted in a rush hour and lengthy traffic lines, as motorists hurry to catch the bridge before it closes. It was to solve these traffic woes and address the advanced age of the Demerara Harbour Bridge that a new bridge was contemplated in the first place.
According to the 2013 report, consultations were carried out with various private sector agencies and non- governmental organisations (NGO) representing cross sections of the production and manufacturing sectors in Guyana.
Those consultations, the report detailed, were to obtain valuable data to complete the report, introduce stakeholders to the new Demerara River Crossing concept, and garner feedback that could potentially influence the project.
The agencies the Ministries of Public Works and Finance engaged were the Private Sector Commission (PSC), Georgetown Chambers of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association (GMSC), Guyana Shipping Association (GSA), Guyana Lands and Survey Commission (GL&SC), Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE).
According to the report, these stakeholders “indicated a strong desire for a new fixed bridge structure across the Demerara River. The new structure would not only relieve road and marine traffic congestion, but would also facilitate and catalyse improved mobility, sector growth, and planned development at the Georgetown Harbour.”