He said the national infrastructure, known to be the longest floating bridge in the world at the time of its construction in 1978, has also “stood the test of time.”
Joining the staff of the DHB to celebrate the facility’s 40th anniversary at the Umana Yana today, Minister Harmon said the bridge remains a national legacy to all of Guyana. What was most striking though, was the facility being able to outlast it projected life-expectancy by some three decades
The bridge was constructed in 1978 by engineer Joseph Holder. At the time it was expected to last for only ten years. However, today it remains the only major facility that has been able to bridge the gap of hundreds of thousands of Guyanese who use it daily.
“It was expected to last for ten years. It is now 30 years beyond that expectation and going strong,” Minister Harmon told the gathering at the Umana Yana. he said that it is a testimony to the quality and durability of infrastructural work that was done in 1970’s.
He said the bridge has had its fair share of challenges over the last 40 years, but it was able to stand the test of time.
According to Minister Harmon, the historic occasion provides an opportunity for the country to pay homage to another visionary national leader the late President Linden Forbes Sampson Burnham.
It was under Burnham’s leadership the bridge was constructed. The country, just out of colonialism, had embarked on a grand national enterprise of repairing and developing the country’s infrastructure.
The occasion also pays tribute to the qualified and versatile engineers at the time of the bridge’s construction.
Opened in July 1978, the 1.15-mile floating toll bridge consists of a pedestrian footwall, 61 spans; a raised section that provides horizontal clearance of 32 metres and a vertical clearance of 7.9 metres to allow small vessels to pass always. It also has two retractor spans that retract fully to a horizontal clearance of 77. 4 metres to allow large vessels to pass. Its construction had given prominence as the longest floating bridge in the world at the time.
Before its construction, persons who wanted to traverse to and from Georgetown, for business and school, had to rely on the Transport and Harbour Department’s (T&HD) ferry, which sometimes presented some gruelling experiences. Understanding the challenges, Burnham spearheaded the construction of the bridge, ushering in massive economic and social developments across the respective regions.
In the meantime, the government is shortly to begin the construction of another bridge across the Demerara River.
The new Demerara River bridge will see the construction of an approximately 1,500m-long fixed bridge with a movable span and two approach roads of a total length of 600m. It is envisaged that the project will commence in 2018 and will be delivered in 2020.
A Feasibility Study and Design Report for the new Demerara River Bridge completed by consulting company, Lievense CSO determined that the proposed location of Houston-Versailles is the most ideal.
The structure, the report said, will provide the most socio-economic benefits for Guyana and led to the lowest urban environmental impact. Furthermore, it was recommended that the promotion of alternative transportation routes should be encouraged to lend to the longevity of the new bridge.
With government soon to commence construction of a new bridge across the Demerara River, Minister of State Joseph Harmon said there is no reason for the current structure to be demolished.
Minister Harmon said that “two bridges are better than one” and noted that as Minister responsible for Region Three (Essequibo Islands-West Demerara), he will be lobbying for the upkeep of the bridge even after the new one is completed.
“I see absolutely no sensible reason to decommission one, where you have another one. I will lend my voice to that chorus which says that we should keep both bridges,” he told staff members and special invitees at the Demerara Harbour Bridge’s 40th anniversary celebration at the Umana Yana.
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