Takutu bridge behind schedule By Andrew Richards
Stabroek News
January 7, 2002

Work on the Takutu bridge has fallen behind schedule and after being halted for the holidays it is now expected to be completed a few months later than originally targeted.

Technical adviser in the Ministry of Public Works and Communications, Walter Willis told Stabroek News that work will continue on the abutments of the bridge on both sides of the border when construction resumes on January 21. Work closed on December 22.

Willis disclosed that when he last checked the progress of the construction on December 7, he estimated that it was about two weeks behind schedule.

According to him, the bridge was supposed to be completed in July but Region Ten (Upper Takutu/Upper Essequibo) Chairman, Vin-cent Henry, said he was advised by the Brazilians that it could take as long as November.

The construction of the bridge is being funded by Brazil and the contract was awarded to Brazilian contractor Paulo Humberto Cavalcanti Celestino and construction company Quieroz Galbao. Work began in August.

Eventually, about 30% of the workforce is expected to be Guyanese. Willis stated that the work was still at a specialised stage, which did not require Guyanese labour. The foundation was being laid, he said, and this required work being done underground in concrete shells. However, once work commences on the superstructure itself, local labour would be utilised, Willis said.

According to Henry, the local bridge committee established at Lethem wrote to the Brazilian authorities requesting a list of the categories of personnel that would be required when the superstructure stage started. The committee met the Brazilians a few days ago and feedback on the work for Guyanese was expected soon. Henry said he had received word from the Brazilians that Guyanese could be employed by the construction company as early as next month.

Meanwhile, the survey for the new alignment of the access road to the bridge on the Guyana side has been completed. The road would be 1,500 metres long and downstream from the present pontoon crossing, Stabroek News was told.

The cost of the bridge is US$4 million and it is 230 metres long and 14 metres wide. The design includes a unique crossover on the Guyana side where one lane would go under the other, thus automatically switching traffic from the left hand side, on which vehicles drive in Guyana, to the right as is observed in Brazil.

The Guyana government is also moving to set up an administration building at Lethem to house several government agencies which would be required to deal with the influx of cross-border travellers when the bridge is completed. These include Customs, Immigration, and the Port Health Authority. Willis said that a meeting was scheduled to be held on January 11, to discuss plans for the building and the preliminary design with the floor plan and elevation would be presented.

He said the necessary information had already been received from the various agencies so that work could proceed accordingly.

Customs and Immigration offices were set up on the Brazilian side of the border several years ago. At present, residents of Lethem and Bom Fin, the bordering town in Brazil, use a pontoon to cross the Takutu River. The cost is $3,000 per vehicle.

Vehicles from Brazil are allowed to enter Guyana's territory, but Guyana-registered vehicles are only allowed up to Bom Fin. The bridge is vital to the Lethem-Linden road link expected to be upgraded to a fully paved road.

The road is seen as a key component in Brazil's economic development in the coming years as it would give the country access to the Atlantic and export markets, and to the eastern Brazilian states overland.