Last Updated on Sunday, 26 February 2023, 21:38 by Denis Chabrol
As engineers on Sunday night continued to work feverishly to complete repairs to span eight of the Demerara Harbour Bridge by the 3 AM Monday deadline, authorities intend to ban speeding trucks to prevent damage to the east-west river crossing.
“We are facing a problem with speeding trucks and the bridge is taking a severe pounding and we have decided to recommend very strict and harsh measures in response to such activities so you will be seeing that heavy vehicles that are persistently speeding will be banned from traversing the bridge here,” DHB Chairman, Ravi Ramcharitar told reporters during a site visit to repairs at the bridge.
He explained that when drivers “hit the brake” of speeding trucks, the bridge is damaged, and so slower rate of speed would make a “big difference” in reducing wear and tear. The weight limit for all vehicles is 18 tonnes and the speed limit is 20 miles (32 kilometres) per hour
Mr Ramcharitar said he was optimistic that the repairs, which started at 10 O’clock Saturday night, would be completed by 3 AM or “even earlier.” He said while work was ongoing at span nine, repairs were also underway at other sections of the bridge. That work was being done at spans 12 to 61. He asked commuters to be “patient with us” as efforts were being made to fix the 44-year old bridge. “The bridge is an old structure and it needs constant repairs so we are asking for your patience and understanding,” he said.
General Manager of the DHB, Wayne Watson said 60 percent of the work has been completed since Saturday night. He said the work entailed the changing of two static rollers, transom beam, six panels and other mechanisms to secure those components.
Though the initial target for completion was 24 hours, he said engineers on Sunday morning discovered that when the Panama-registered fuel tanker, MV Trade Wind Passion, slammed into the bridge in early October 2022, a panel was tilted 15 to 30 degrees and the static roller cord was locked off. “When we tried to raise the structure to take out the static roller, we were focussed above but then also we realised that the security bolts that secured the panel to the chair on the pontoon were severed so when we focussed on raising the bridge upward, the bridge was literally raising from below so we had to regroup and reengineer the process so that gave us a three and a half hour deficit,” he said.
The DHB General Manager added that DHB workers and the privately-owned INFAB employees have managed to make up for the extra time spent.
Mr Watson said the cost of repairs has now surpassed the initial amount of GY$1 billion shortly after the initial evaluation but he could not give a figure on Sunday.
Public Works Minister, Juan Edghill, who visited the Georgetown and Vreed-en-Hoop stellings to assess speedboat operations due to the closure of the Harbour Bridge, said that exercise was aimed at understanding what might be the impact of planned two-day closure of the bridge in March when span nine is expected to be replaced. “It was to ensure that we have the kind of systems in place to deal with this 24-hour closure but also learning lessons and be able to look and review what needs to be done when we’ll have to carry out work of a similar nature which may take a little bit more time than what is happening here tonight,” he said.
Mr Edghill credited teams from DHB and INFAB for doing “fantastic work” to get the bridge operational after last October’s accident.