With the rains that began on the weekend as a reminder of what traversing North Windward is like during the rainy season, the government says that the two Bailey bridges in the area might not be opened until July.
MP for North Windward, Montgomery Daniel, who last year promised constituents that the bridges would have been early Christmas gifts, said on NBC Radio today (Wednesday) that more time is needed to correct design flaws.
“I mean I live in Sandy Bay. I have to cross them on a daily basis. And it is good for me as well as any other person who has to use the crossing of these rivers,” Daniel said, adding that he is concerned that the bridges are yet to open.
“And I’m trying my utmost best to see how soon we can have those remedial works done. It’s not gonna be in the best interest of all of us to open the bridges as they are and to have fatalities down the road,” said Daniel, who is acting prime minister.
The bridge at Overland was constructed by Sea Operations and the one at Magum by Kelectric, each of which was awarded a contract by the government.
On Monday, commuters to North Windward expressed their frustration by removing the barricades and driving across the bridges as vehicles were becoming stuck in the loose volcanic material in the seasonal rivers at Magum and Overland.
The SVG Met Services has warned residents and motorists in the volcano red and orange zones to remain alert, as rains are forecast through Thursday.
On Sunday, landslides were reported in Belle Vue, San Souci and Gorse and the rains have continued to fall since then, including when Daniel was speaking on NBC Radio via telephone after 8 a.m. today.
And even as the rains have continued to fall, officials have replaced the barriers at the bridges, forcing vehicles to continue to traverse the areas by driving through the rivers.
On Tuesday, police removed the barricades to allow an ambulance to drive across the bridge as a car was struck in the river and a fire truck struggled to pull it loose. Some motorists took advantage of the opportunity and drove across the bridge also.
However, the barriers were erected again later that day.
In February, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves said there was “a slight problem” with one of the bridges, preventing them from being opened.
Then, in March, he said that Daniel, who is also minister of transportation and works, was waiting for the problem to be rectified so both bridges could be officially opened, adding that the opening was “imminent”.
On Wednesday, Daniel noted that the rains that began on the weekend were continuing to fall, noting that geologist professor Richard Robertson had warned about the difficulties that lahars would pose after the April 2021 eruption of La Soufriere volcano.
“And the work was done basically, in that the bridges have already been established but there seems to have been some design flaw in that if you are entering the [Overland] bridge from north going south, the angle you’re entering is almost at a right anger and the levels approaching the degree of slope is somewhat high, so that the design flaw needs to be corrected,” Daniel said.
He said the Ministry of Finance was having discussion with the contractors regarding the cost of correcting the design flaws and the timelines for the remedial work.
He said that once a project is complete, a certificate of completion is issued and the project is handed over to the client, in this case, the government.
“… so, in all of this, the certification of completion is not done so that you can virtually say that the works have not been handed over to the government as yet,” Daniel said.
He said that as the MP he has been in discussions with the Ministry of Finance “to understand exactly where we are.
“Now I really want to have the bridge open because, of course, as what I identified on the weekend and until now, we’re still having some rains,” Daniel said.
“And the rivers were down on Monday, where some of those smaller vehicles that feared, went into the river, removed the barriers and traversed on the bridges.”
He said that since a certificate of completion has not been issued, “any damage to the bridge, of course, is going to further cost to the government.
“And one has to be careful with that,” Daniel said.
He said the project manager of a national road rehabilitation project has been involved and the design and cost have been worked on.
“… and as the funds are available, immediately the repair works will be done and I am hopeful, I am really hopeful, that all of these works will be complete by the end of June,” Daniel said.
“So that I’m looking at very early July to have officially those bridges open to the general public. I want to really see the safety and comfort of the traveling public north of those two bridges,” the MP said.
“I really, really am looking forward to having these bridges open as soon as possible. But I can’t open them under the present condition that they are, which can really pose problems for the traveling public”