Sep 21, 2017 News
A key report on a new crossing for the Demerara River has pointed to the importance of constructing a new road connecting Diamond, East Bank Demerara to Ogle, East Coast Demerara, as a means to ease congestion.
According to the feasibility report of Dutch engineers, Lievense CSO, which cost Guyana $146M, without critical improvements to the road network leading to the bridge area, congestion will not be fixed on the mid and long term.
The construction of a new bridge, slated to be built between Houston and Versailles, as early as next year would come with the current 40-year-old Demerara Harbour Bridge unable to handle the daily traffic.
At least 10,000 vehicles cross the bridge daily in one direction, with a five percent increase projected. A number of measures including one way on the bridge at peak hours have not helped matters much.
At peak hours, in the morning and evening, the East Bank and West Bank Demerara road network becomes a nightmare to drive.
Earlier this week, the seriousness of the situation was underscored after a truck broke down on the bridge, forcing commuters to sit for hours in long lines that were going nowhere.
Engineers had feared that a new bridge at Houston would encounter the same problems at Peter’s Hall, East Bank Demerara where there is a bottleneck at the junction.
According to the proposed plans, a number of overhead, fly-over bridges over the East Bank Public Road, together with the new connecting roads, would take care of the congestion.
“A new bridge should not only connect both riverbanks but also result in undisturbed traffic. In the traffic study, impacts of height and number of lanes of a new bridge on general traffic flow have been assessed,” Lievense CSO said in its report.
The consultants warned that if the road network is not extended or improved, the new bridge may give a slight improvement but traffic congestion will not be resolved in the mid and long term.
“Government is preparing the project of the eastern bypass road on the East Bank, connecting Diamond with Ogle. This bypass will reduce traffic from the East Bank Public Road. It is considered that the existing East and West Bank Demerara roads, including Vreed-en-Hoop, cannot be significantly improved further.”
The consultant believes that there seems to be strong appetite and sufficient liquidity in the financial markets of Guyana and the region to fund the project.
“Loans or bonds and preferred cumulative shares issues provide for the required funds. This so-called Project Financing Structure requires a Government supported Special Purpose Company (SPC).”
A Public/Private/Partnership (PPP) structure like BOOT (Build, Own, Operate and Transfer) whereby an investor signs a concession agreement with the government to build and operate the bridge and in which the concessionaire has to arrange the financing can only be successful if the government provides support including contribution and certain guarantees.
“The government expressed the wish to maximise funding from the non-government sector in order to limit the government contribution to the funding of the Project as much as possible. That means that the project has to be structured in a Public Private Partnership (PPP), i.e. a Build, Own, Operate and Transfer (BOOT) type of arrangement or a Project Finance structure whereby the commercial banks and (institutional) investors are involved, or an intermediate structure like DBFM (Design, Built, Finance and Maintain).”
The feasibility study has 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 and the families removed.
On the West Bank junction at Versailles, river side lands along with a timber shed will also have to be acquired.
It was recommended, that when the new bridge becomes operational, the old one at Peter’s Hall is to be closed and demolished.
Lievense advised in the documents that toll tariff rates be increased to 250 percent of the present rates. Along with this would be a 700 percent 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 Peter’s Hall to Meer Zorgen (the location of the present bridge), and from New Hope (further up the East Bank) to Laurentia Catherina.
The administration in recent days has been insisting that the bridge is a top priority.
It will come as commuters complain daily of congestion. On Monday, a breakdown of a truck on the bridge led to a backup for hours.
The Opposition has expressed concerns over a number of things including the feasibility study, the ownership of lands at Versailles, West Bank Demerara, which has to be acquired; and questioned the feasibility study and accused the project, even before construction gets underway, of being mired in corruption.
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