GEORGETOWN – The Ministry of Public Infrastructure (MPI), amidst questions over a mega-project to build a new bridge across the Demerara River, has released the feasibility study which recommended a low-level, three-lane, 1.5km structure between Houston, East Bank Demerara, and Versailles, West Bank Demerara.
According to the study, that bridge could cost up to US$170m, inclusive of financing costs and acquisition of properties along the alignment.
At least four houses in Houston along with lands will have to be acquired.
On the West Bank junction at Versailles, river side lands along with a timber shed will also have to be acquired.
When the new bridge becomes operational, the old one at Peters Hall is to be closed and demolished.
Dutch engineers, Lievense CSO, which completed the feasibility study and design for the new crossing were hired ata cost of $146m. It advised in the documents that toll tariff rates be increased 250 per cent of the present rates. Along with this would be a 700 per cent increase in tolls for river vessels. The latter, the report noted, has not been increased for a while.
Lievense CSO explained that the design structure for the new bridge has been kept as light and simple as possible.
It was disclosed that a pre-feasibility study carried out in 2013 proposed three main alternatives for the location of the new connection- from Houston to Versailles, from Peters Hall to Meer Zorgen (the location of the present bridge), and from New Hope (further up the East Bank) to Laurentia Catherina.
The consultant said its job includes site investigations, traffic and river studies, designs, environmental impact study, socio economic cost benefit analysis, financial analysis and financing and funding plan.
“The aim of the study is to support the decision making by the government on the location and configuration of the river crossing.”
In the main conclusions, it was determined that a low bridge at Houston with three lanes and a movable section to transit seagoing vessels would be the best solution.
With regards to the current Demerara Harbour Bridge at Peters Hall, the report made it clear it is unreliable and lacks the capacity to serve the traffic demand hence a new bridge is required. At least 10,000 vehicles are heading one direction daily, making it difficult for the bridge to function.
Some issues to be resolved are the resettlement of some houses, and efforts to minimize the impact to the Muneshwer terminal at Houston as well as to the Pritipaul Singh Investments fisheries complex at McDoom.
However, Lievense CSO warned that to reduce the current traffic congestion, the new bridge is only a part of the problem.
“The city road network has to be improved and extended to serve the present and future traffic demand. The existing bank roads need to be relieved. New links from the bridge to town as well as from the bridge to the west bypassing Vreed-en-Hoop to relieve the East and West Bank Public Roads from traffic are required.
“In addition, the East Bank Public Road shall be relieved from the traffic from Diamond and more south by realizing the by-pass road now under preparation between Diamond and Ogle.”
But the problems of congestion will surface again in 2030 in a big way.
“At that time the road system is expected to become saturated again. New investments will be required, like a second bridge as well as extension of the city road network. It is recommended to shift this moment backwards in time by promoting alternative transport modalities (speed-boats and public transport) in order to reduce the traffic demand for the road system.”
The project costs of the new bridge will be in the vicinity of US$170M including interest for pre-financing cost during construction.
An alternative structure is to seek private parties willing to engage themselves in a BOOT Project (built, operate, own and transfer).
The administration in recent days has been insisting that the bridge is a top priority.
The Opposition has questioned the feasibility of the project, and even before construction has started, made accusals of corruption.