YARPLEAH TOWN, River Cess â€“ The Timbo River Bridge is finally closed to the public as construction crew prepares to demolish the bridge.
On Monday, February 18, 2019, Napoleon Davis of Jupiter Construction announced that the Ministry of Public Works had instructed his company to close the bridge to the public. The announcement comes even though a planned detour is not yet completed by the Ministry of Public Works.
â€œThis one is an instruction from the Ministry of Public Works and we canâ€™t do anything about it but to do as they say,â€ Davis said. â€œEven though the detour is yet to be complete, we have to start working.â€
By mid-day on Tuesday, February 19, Techsult Liberia, Inc. the company providing consultancy to the project, had placed a log at the entrance of the bridge to prevent commercial drivers from using it.
Despite the measure put in place to prevent vehicles from using the bridge, motorcyclists were seen lifting their bikes to cross over to the other side.
The sudden closure of the bridge caught many by surprise and commercial drivers and passengers complained that the government and the company had not provided prior notice before closing access to the bridge.
â€œYou canâ€™t just close public roads like that without informing the people ahead of time,â€ said Shedrick Samuels, a commercial driver. â€œThey know they [were] going to close the bridge but they failed to complete the detour on time.â€
Davisâ€™ company has been working on the bridge since April 2018 but due to the high water table during the rainy season, work was suspended in August 2018 following the conditioning of three piers beneath the bridge.
Davis said his company is doing a backfilling to reach seven feet high above the water level where logs will be placed for the detour.
â€œThe logs for the detour are already here but we want to finish the backfilling first,â€ he said. â€œBefore the end of next week, the detour will finish, but now we canâ€™t wait for it to finish before we start working.â€
Early December 2018, Davis told The Bush Chicken that the government had agreed to provide funding for the creation of an alternative route for commuters, but as that alternate route was being delayed, Jupiter Construction built a footbridge while awaiting the ministryâ€™s intervention.
The Timbo River Bridge needs repair urgently. Parts of the bridge are frequently falling into the river below. On the morning of Monday, February 18, two steel plates on the floor of the bridge fell into the river.
Using the detour being built right next to the bridge will likely be risky, as heavy-duty machinery will be used to demolish the bridge while commuters use the detour route.
The contract to replace the bridge was awarded to Jupiter Construction by the government during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration. Davis said the work was delayed due to the prolonged 2017 general elections coupled with the impact of the rainy season.
The Timbo River Bridge was constructed in 1972 and commissioned in 1976; it has long overstayed its useful life. The river under the bridge forms the boundary between River Cess and Grand Bassa.
Featured photo by Eric Opa Doue