It will now take up to 18 months before construction works on the Old Bridge (otherwise known as Vai Town or Tubman Bridge) is complete and opened to public use, construction officials disclosed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf yesterday.
Officials of the Chongqing International Construction Company (CICO), the Chinese firm contracted to rebuild the bridge and Monrovia’s street, told the President that all materials needed for the construction of the bridge were now on the ground, and full-scale work was proceeding rapidly.
“We will finish the work in 18 months…we will finish the work by November 2011…I am sure the work will be finished by next November,” one of the officials told President Sirleaf and Public Work Minister Samuel Kofi Woods, who had gone to tour the site for an update.
The latest development indicates that the construction of the bridge will last one more year longer than the initial completion and hand over date of November 21, 2010.
The World Bank is pumping in a little over US$14.5M to restore the bridge which finally crumbled in May 2007 after 60 years of existence.
The 240 meter-long railway bridge was built between 1945 and 1946 for railway purposes and later became a two-lane vehicle bridge with pedestrian sidewalks.
Besides providing easy and shorter alternative route to entering the capital from Vai Town to the commercials enclave of Waterside, the Tubman Bridge (official name) also served as a bustling trading center for petty traders and fishermen, who fetched fish in the Mesurado River.
Dozens of other people including criminals also found homes and save havens under the bridge, some of whom looted parts and sold them to scrap dealers.
Many Liberians had hoped the bridge construction would have been near completion by now.
“There were some challenges and difficulties in the beginning” that caused delay in the commencement of the work a CICO officials told the President, but said these challenges have now been dealt with.
The officials informed the Liberian leader that mobilization, geotechnical investigation and demolition of the existing bridge have all been done.
They said construction of the foundation, which is now taking place, would be followed by construction of the superstructure, deck pavement and handover hopefully in November 2011.
“This is the most difficult part of the bridge construction – the foundation – and the entire construction will be complete in 18 to 20 months,” a technician explaining diagram to the President and the Public Works Minister, said.
President Sirleaf lauded the company for the work and stressed the need for Liberians to be trained. She applauded the company’s pronouncement to train some Liberians engineering and bridge construction skills.
Prior to reaching the bridge, President Sirleaf, as part of touring the waterfront of Monrovia along with Minister Woods, ordered the demolition of structures in the right of way.
The Liberian leader frowned at illegal structures including toilets built along the waterfront and Lebanese stores constructed at the intersection of Water and Gurley streets.
She told the proprietor of the Rasamany Brothers that his store/warehouse was built on government’s properties and it would be demolished.