Demerara River crossing– says approach ill-conceived, will be burdensomeThe Opposition People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) is questioning Government’s sudden decision to scrap a previous proposal – largely centred on establishing a new three-lane, open format bridge as a replacement for the Demerara Harbour Bridge (DHB) – in favour of a four-lane, fixed high-level bridge.General Secretary of the party, Bharrat Jagdeo told a media conference on Thursday that not only is the idea going against the feasibility study that was done for the new crossing, but the coalition Government’s approach to the initiative is ill-conceived and will only serve as a huge burden to Guyana.“This is ill-conceived and will leave us with a huge burden in the future,” he said, while explaining that he is not against the four-lane design, but the approach byOpposition Leader Bharrat JagdeoGovernment is a major cause for worry.He also reminded that the feasibility study deemed a four-lane initiative unfeasible. “If you’re going for a four-lane fixed bridge. We don’t have a problem, but the three-lane study said only the three-lane bridge was feasible. Their own study says the four-lane is not feasible,” he pointed out.The former Head of State who has long criticised the Government for its approach to this project, stated this flip-flop attitude could only lead to chaos and disaster for the entire project. He recalled that he had advised that Government should not leave it up to the contractors to determine the future of the project.Jagdeo also recalled raising concerns over the fact that there was no money in the budget, no funding for the bridge and no grants or financing available for the construction of the bridge.“I said all of those things need to be pre-determined… I pointed out the Berbice Bridge. That there were about 2000 pages of studies… a prospectus was developed… legislation passed to support public private partnership… and only then did the company solicit bids… they [Government] didn’t do any of these things. They just said we’re putting out the tender, the contractors will tell us what they want,” he explained.Finance Minister Winston Jordan who made the announcement explained that several persons would have submitted proposals for various types of bridges. This is even though the feasibility study recommended a three-lane bridge. However, submissions were made for a four-lane fixed bridge.No policy directionOpposition Member of Parliament Juan Edghill has urged Government to come clean on the matter. The former junior Finance Minister has said he was surprised that Public Infrastructure Minister David Patterson did not notify Guyanese about the project, especially based on its magnitude.Edghill also pointed out that Patterson’s last statement on this project was that three companies would be selected from the companies who bid, and they would be asked to submit proposals, including for financing the bridge. The Minister had also given a particular timeline.The MP slammed Government, stating that this is indicative of the fact that the coalition Government has no policy direction in the public infrastructure sector and that they are prone to making ad hoc decisions. He was here referring to the Guyana Power and Light’s $3 billion tender for the installation of smart meters and transmission lines which Government annulled a few months ago.Last year, a feasibility study and design for the new Demerara River Bridge had reportedly cost some $146.3 million. It was presented to Minister within the Public Infrastructure Ministry, Annette Ferguson.The 57-page final report was done by Dutch company LievenseCSO. The project team had included officials from the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation and Transport and Harbours Department.It is understood that the feasibility study had determined the proposed location of Houston-Versailles as the most ideal. It is also understood that a low-level bridge with a movable part and three-lanes was recommended for construction.Another study had been completed back in 2013, when the Demerara Harbour Bridge Corporation had collaborated with the then Public Works Ministry to carry out a pre-feasibility analysis. That study had concluded that a ‘fixed, high-level’ bridge was the best option to pursue, rather than the retractable model, echoing the most recent recommendations made by Consultant Rameshwar.The “fixed, high-level” option would ensure that traffic would be able to flow even while boats passed underneath the structure. The bridge presently operates according to schedule in order to cater for marine traffic.There have traditionally been lengthy traffic lines during rush hour, as motorists hurry to catch the bridge before it closes. It was to solve these traffic woes and to cater for the advanced age of the Demerara Harbour Bridge structure that a new bridge has been contemplated.According to the 2013 report, consultations were carried out with various Private Sector agencies and non-governmental organisations representing cross sections of the production and manufacturing sectors in Guyana. Those consultations, the report detailed, were to obtain valuable data to complete the report, introduce stakeholders to the new Demerara River crossing concept, and garner feedback that could potentially influence the project.