Cargo, marine traffic halted as major breakage occurs on DHB Retractor Span

…only 1 truck at a time allowed to traverse bridge

A “major breakage” at Retractor Span-9 of the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) has forced authorities to restrict heavy vehicles from traversing the bridge, as well as halt retractions for marine traffic.
Public Works Minister Juan Edghill, during a press briefing on Thursday to give an update on the emergency situation with the Retractor Span, announced that only trucks carrying loads of up to 18 tonnes would be allowed to traverse the bridge.
However, only one truck from either side would be allowed at a time to cross. This has resulted in a back-up of trucks on either side of the Demerara Harbour Bridge since Thursday afternoon, going into the night.

Minister Edghill, along with the technical team and other officials, inspected the troubled Retractor Span 9 on Thursday afternoon

A team led by the Minister had inspected the troubled Retractor Span 9 as well as Span 10. A defective component was extracted from Span 9.
“We had to make a decision to interrupt the traffic for trucks bearing loads. We have satisfied ourselves that if we release one truck at a time on the bridge, as against several trucks both going and coming at the same time, we’ll be able to alleviate some of the problems that we currently face,” Edghill said.
Further, he noted that loaded trucks that usually get special crossings for carrying up to 22 tonnes would not be allowed until a full review of the situation is done and a remedy is arrived at.

A component from the DHB Retractor Span 9, where there is a breakage

Regarding marine traffic, Chairman of the DHB Board, Ravi Ramcharitar, would be meeting today with stakeholders who handle vessels that traverse the Demerara River.
“As it stands right now, we would not be able to have a retraction until we engage these agents and we have some agreement, because we have to reduce the amount of retractions that are being done, so as to save this bridge because of what is taking place currently,” the Public Works Minister noted.
Meanwhile, a technical team, comprising DHB engineers and engineers Marcel Gaskin and Marley Bhaveshwar and Captain Gerry Gouveia from local steel company InFab Inc, will go back to the drawing board and do the necessary testing and engineering designs to come up with a solution within 72 hours.
According to Edghill, they are also currently working with the National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) to fast-track access to the $890 million allocated in the 2021 Budget for works on Retractor Span 9 in order to get these emergency works done.

Several trucks were parked on the eastern end of the DHB, waiting to cross the bridge on Thursday night

“We wanna ensure that the procurement process for the works to be done at Span 9 is done according to the law, but we have to move with some haste so we can get this done quickly. So, we have an engagement with the Tender Board on that, to get things moving quickly,” he explained.
In the meantime, Edghill is urging truck owners and operators to be patient as works move apace to resolve the issue as soon as possible, so as to prevent any disruption to commercial activities or loss of livelihoods.
The Public Works Minister also implored motorists traversing the bridge to observe the speed limit and avoid braking suddenly – which he said is partially the cause of the issues being faced now.
Further, the Minister warned that if there is any breach of these restrictions on overladen trucks, the DHB staff who are responsible for allowing this would face the consequences.
“Every truck must be weighed before crossing; and if, for any reasons, there is a local arrangement where people want to exercise their personal discretion and put this important structure at risk, that staff will have to face the consequences, because we’re not gonna allow it,” Minister Edghill cautioned.
He added, “So, we’re appeal to all for patience. We haven’t taken the decision to shut things down, we’re gonna manage it because (we) know the importance of keeping the traffic flowing… We are committed to ensuring that this bridge stays afloat while we advance the process for the new, four-lane, concrete high-span bridge [across the Demerara River], which will not have to be opened and closed, but you could have 24-hour traffic – both vehicular and marine traffic.”
Already, nine international companies have pre-qualified for construction of the new Demerara River Bridge. The next stage will be for the selection of a contractor, after which works would commence in the last quarter of this year. Construction of the new bridge, which will be a 50-metre flyover from Nandy Park, East Bank Demerara to La Grange, West Bank Demerara, will take approximately two years.
The construction of the new bridge will be a timely one, as the East Bank is notorious for heavy traffic congestions due to the current retractable bridge.
Floating at a length of 1.25 miles, the current Demerara Harbour Bridge is a strategic link between the eastern and western banks of the Demerara river, and facilitate daily movement of thousands of vehicles, people, and cargo. The structure was built in the 1970s, but was opened in July 1978 with the expectation of lasting only 10 years. However, some 43 years after, it is still floating. (G8)