A NEW BRIDGE? YES, BUT WHERE?
A new bridge is needed over the Demerara River. Given the traffic that traverses the Demerara Harbour Bridge each day and the long time it takes for people to reach home or to get to work when having to use that bridge, there is a need for two bridges across the river, one for eastward traffic and other for westbound traffic.
The question however is where will this new bridge be situated. The present bridge is a floating bridge. It would have been nice if an upper tier could have been bolted on to it so as to facilitate upper and lower level traffic. The present structure, however, cannot sustain that load.
There is also no room on the eastern bank for another bridge next to the present one. We have continued to make the mistake of not catering for the future. We have persisted with unplanned development by allowing houses and businesses to be built along main roads, especially near to major infrastructural projects.
If a new structure is to be built near to the present one, it would involve encroaching on private property.
Even so, it will only compound the already difficult traffic situation for another bridge to built in close proximity to the present one.
Building a new bridge is therefore impractical. There is simply no land available to build a new bridge between Georgetown and Providence, simply none. So where is this new bridge going to be located?
It makes no sense taking the bridge further up the East Bank. The bridge at Providence is already too far away and is one of the main reasons why persons living in West Demerara take so long to get to and from home each day. This is not helped at all by the volume of traffic that uses the bridge every day.
The heavy traffic is based on two main factors. Economic and educational opportunities are too heavily concentrated in Georgetown. As such, the bulk of the persons who use the bridge do so to get to and from work and for business and personal services. Also, all of the top schools in Guyana are located in Georgetown. This means that children living in West Demerara who attend these top schools have to travel each day across the river.
The government therefore has to create economic and educational activities in Region 3. It has to stop this idea of allowing businesses along the main public roads and instead identify a massive area in West Demerara for businesses; it has to look towards encouraging an entertainment complex, comprising of movie theaters and discothèques, clubs and other such attractions. The whole intention is to create large industrial, business and entertainment zones that would create thousands of jobs and eventually allow more persons living in those areas to work near to their homes, thus avoiding daily travel across the river.
The private sector would love such a venture. The government should find the land and allow the private sector to do the rest.
Two or three top primary and secondary schools are also needed in West Demerara. There are existing schools that can be upgraded with proper computer labs and by bringing in part-time highly qualified teachers from outside of Guyana. Once this is done in two or three schools, parents in West Demerara would be more inclined to send their children to these schools rather than having to send them to the city.
These measures however may not in the short-term reduce the amount of traffic appreciably. After all, a man working in Georgetown will not necessarily leave his present job in the city simply because jobs are available near to where he lives.
What these measures will do is to help in the long term when the situation is likely to get far worse than it is at present.
By then, hopefully, an alternative to a new bridge would have been found. An alternative has to be looked at in the interim because there is no suitable location for a new bridge.
Perhaps faster passenger-only ferries is the answer. If a ferry can be found which can move five hundred persons within fifteen minutes, this would make a big difference.
It is an opportunity for the private sector to consider. And since the government is very keen to provide financial backing for major projects, this could well be one.
Instead of wasting money on the proposed Marriott Hotel, the government should take that money and support a private sector initiative aimed at faster ferries to ply the river by repairing the present ferry stellings once there is a viable proposal from the private sector.