Steep hike in tolls for new Demerara Harbour Bridge needed- Dutch consultants

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 September 2017, 17:08 by Denis Chabrol

The proposed three-lane new Demerara River Bridge.

The Guyana government has been told that tolls for crossing the new Demerara Harbour Bridge in 2020 should be increased by at least 250 percent and river vessel tolls by 700 percent to make way for government to contribute US$39.3 million in five years.

“Toll tariff rates are advised to be increased to 250 % of the present 2017 road toll rates. Toll for river vessels to be increased to 700 % of the present rates (which have not been increased recently),” states The Netherlands-based LievenseCSO Engineering Contracting B.V. in its feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River crossing.

Currently, bridge crossing tolls range from GYD$40 for motorcycles to GYD$700 for motor lorries. Cars and minibuses pay GYD$200.

The company said based on that formula, the government’s contribution would be limited to US$39 million “to be paid in five years after commissioning of the project and the project becomes viable.”

If the tolls are increased by 100 percent, government would have to provide US$140 million over the first 12 years; 200 percent would require a government contribution of US$67.5 million over the first 10 years or 300 percent a government contribution of US$27.3 million.

The company states that the technical lifetime of a fixed bridge exceeds 50 years.

The move-able part of the proposed new Demerara River bridge through which ocean-going vessels will pass.

Public Infrastructure Minister, David Patterson is already on record as committing government to subsidise tolls to cross the new Demerara Bridge in the same way that the David Granger-led administration is cushioning the financial impact of crossing the Berbice Bridge.

The consultants estimate that the low three-lane bridge to be built from Houston, East Bank Demerara to Versailles, West Bank Demerara would cost US$170 million including interest for pre-financing cost during construction.

LievenseCSO Engineering Contracting BV indicated that the Houston-Versailles link is the best based on future projections of a five percent growth in the number of vehicles, plans to build the Ogle to Diamond road and possibly increased urbanisation of the West Demerara. Also, the company suggested that if the bridge was built at New Hope, it would mean that the bridge would lose out on river tolls because fewer ocean going vessels would need to pass the bridge to go upriver.

Houston location will affect most vessels, but is the best option taking into account the water depth. New Hope location has to serve the lowest number of vessels and has deep water but its location in a bend in the river makes manoeuvring more difficult

The document states that for the bridge at Houston  a fixed minimum elevation of 17,5 m chart datum is recommended to allow trawlers and smaller vessels to transit without opening the movable part. In New Hope this minimum air draft is less relevant. The elevation of a high or movable bridge shall be at least 47,5 m to allow all recorded traffic of ocean going vessels to pass the bridge or a minimum of 43,5 m chart datum to let 99 % pass.

In case of a movable bridge the number of  transits of ocean going vessels at Houston is twice the In case of a movable bridge the number of transits of ocean going vessels at Houston is twice the number of transits at New Hope, with a double impact to the road traffic. Opening times must be reduced to an average of about 15 minutes.

Specifically, the document states that US$150 million, are needed for contractors cost and additional costs for services, land acquisition for the approach roads, and limited budget for a first phase of link roads.   The proposed financial structure is by Project Finance through a Special Purpose Company that will the owner and responsible for arranging the funding.

The East Bank Demerara road approach to the proposed Demerara Bridge crossing

The consulting company said the East Bank approach road requires land acquisition of four houses as well as land acquisition and a narrow corridor to align the bridge between the Pritipaul Singh Investments Fish processing plant and the Muneshwer Terminal. The West Bank junction will require land acquisition at the river side as well as the acquisition of the timber shed on the west side of the junction.

Unlike the now 40-year old Demerara Harbour Bridge, the new bridge is proposed to have a move-able part that will allow for much shorter opening and closing times.

The feasibility company justifies the construction of a three-lane bridge, saying that during peak hours two of the lanes can be made one-way.

LievenseCSO Engineering Contracting states in its feasibility study that based on traffic forecast, the road system is expected to become saturated again and there would be need for a second river bridge, extension of the city road network and the promotion of alternative means of transportation such as speedboats and public transport to “reduce the traffic demand  for the road system.”