With the increase of traffic accessing the Demerara Harbour Bridge, it is imperative that the existing maintenance programme be revamped with a view of improving the structure’s operation, according to People’s National Congress Reform (PNC/R), Shadow Minister of Works and Communication, Ernest Elliot.
He explained during the 2011 budget debate last week that the floating bridge was constructed some 32 years ago with the aim of accommodating the growing population, businesses, workers and travel across Guyana. But according to Elliot, over the years, the volume of traffic increased significantly. He revealed that a release issued by the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation a few weeks ago, stated that the largest volume of traffic was recorded.
“This brings to the fore that the maintenance programme has to be improved and managed properly and to be structured,” Elliot asserted. He disclosed that for the past three years Government expended over $2B on programmes and rehabilitation works. In fact, he revealed, that it was just last year a significant sum was used on a project which entailed the servicing of pontoons, replacing of hydraulic pumps, fabrication of distribution beams among other remedial works.
This year too he said he sees the budget making allocations for the sum of $5M for further upgrading, which includes construction and rehabilitation of pontoons, beams and posts; construction of and the installation of concrete anchor piles and replacement of electrical cables and junction boxes for the retraction span.
And while all of these components are regarded as vital to ensure that the bridge remains safe, there is still need to take into consideration the increased volume of traffic accessing the bridge, Elliot noted.
“…Having invested these huge sums on this structurally sound bridge, could the Minister (Robeson Benn) say what plans are in store for a well structured maintenance programme for the next 10 to 15 years and if its capacity is assured?”
Elliot revealed that during the past year, too, the Government had embarked on the rehabilitation and extension of 16 critical structures along the East Coast and East Bank of Demerara, which are expected to be completed this year at a cost of $953M. But according to the PNC/R Shadow Minister, when the government sought to award the respective contracts and commenced works simultaneously, it did not take into account, especially for the residents on the East Bank, that there is only one carriage way on the East Bank.
“The travelling public includes workers, schoolchildren, the sick and visitors arriving and departing Guyana…Due to the long delays every day, some commuters become angry while some lose economically. One noticeable obstacle at these sites is the lack of proper supervision of those persons who are directing the flow of traffic. There is a need for properly trained personnel to perform such duties so as not to further compound the long and unnecessary delays. It is worse at nights when no one is attending…”
Elliot revealed, too, that it was some time ago that the government had embarked on a programme of street lighting throughout the country to improve safety on the highway by enhancing visibility during the hours of darkness. But while government has been spending millions on programmes to enhance safety on the roadways, there is still a need to address the problem of non-functioning lamps in the Regions, especially on the East Coast of Demerara, Elliot said. “Can the Honourable Minister tell us who is responsible for the maintenance and servicing of these lamps or is it just another project of waste, or jobs for the boys?” the Shadow Minister questioned.
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