Opened: 2 July 1978
Length: 1851 meters (1.15 miles)
Type: Floating, with 61 spans, including a retractor span for
the passage of large ships.
Vertical clearance for small vessels: 7.9 metres
Horizontal clearance for large ships (retractor span): 77.4
Maximum Motor Vehicle Tonnage: 34.5 Metric Tonnes (Special Permission
Required from DHBC)
FROM CONSTRUCTION PROJECT TO PUBLIC CORPORATION
Thirty Three Years and Counting
The construction of a bridge across the Demerara River
in the vicinity of Georgetown was discussed for a long time, culminating
in a motion tabled in the Legislative
Council of British Guiana in the early 1950’s to construct
such a bridge.
Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade and Douglas (PBQD) of
USA, included a prefeasibility study of constructing a bridge across
the mouth of the Demerar River, in a study of the road approaches to
Georgetown in 1970, but submitted to the Government of Guyana (GOG)
after the Delcanda study. The PBQD study stated that a pontoon bridge
with retractor spans was not feasible .
Attention to bridging the mouth of the Demerara River
was resumed in 1975 when a two week training programme in the use of
Acrow Panel Bridge (APB) and Uniflote (UF) components in the construction
of bridges was held at Camp Ayanganna in Georgetown. APB was a civilian
development of the Bailey
Bridge which was produced by the UK Government during World War
II for military transportation purposes. It was attended by engineers
from the Roads Division, Ministry
of Works and Transport (MWT), Hydraulics Division, Ministry of Agriculture
and the Guyana Defence Force. The training programme was conducted by
Storey (Engineers) Ltd. (TSEL), who had supplied APB components
to the Hydraulics Division.
During the programme a day of lectures was devoted
to the construction of floating bridges using APB and UF components.
At the end of that day of lectures the question was raised as to whether
APB and UF components could be used to construct a floating bridge across
the Demerara River in the vicinity of Georgetown. Using the APB handbook
and prices of the APB and UF the bridge was designed by the class and
its cost determined approximately.
However, the TSEL Managing Director followed up the
exercise by obtaining the relevant technical information about the Demerara
River in the vicinity of Georgetown, and submitted a proposal to the
Government of Guyana (GOG) later in 1975 to construct a two lane floating
bridge carrying AASHTO HS20 traffic between Georgetown and Versailles
with two retracting spans across the shipping channel. The project would
be financed by a commercial medium term loan from a finance house in
London to the GOG. To assure the GOG about the technical soundness of
its proposal, TSEL hosted a visit to its London head office and its
Manchester works by Mr. Joseph Holder, Specialist Engineer Structures,
Roads Division. Mr. Holder observed the fabrication of APB and UF components
and their use in the construction of floating docks at various places
in England and the Channel Isles, and discussed the design and functioning
of the retractor spans with the engineer who was designing them. However,
Mr. Holder was unable to observe any floating bridges in England, since
there were none in existence.
Mr. Holder advised the GOG on his return from England
that the APB and UF components could be used successfully for constructing
a bridge across the Demerara River.
A contract was signed between the GOG and TSEL on
26 May 1976 for the supply of APB and UF components to construct a floating
bridge between Peter’s Hall and Meer Zorgen.
The floating bridge was designed by TSEL, while the
abutments, toll plaza and western approach road were designed by Structures
Section, Roads Division, MWT. Fabrication of components started in England
immediately after the signing of the contract. The retractor spans were
assembled at a dock in London and tested before transportation to Guyana.
Construction of the bridge at Peter’s Hall started on 29
Mr. Holder was appointed Project Manager for the construction
of the bridge in March 1976. A number of engineers who had graduated
recently from the University of Guyana were seconded from the Roads
Division to Guybridge. Among these engineers were Messrs. Hamlet Hope,
Winston December, Lloyd Alli, Rickford Lowe, Baburam Singh and Paul
Two outstanding supervisors were transferred to Guybridge
from other projects and appointed to promotional posts of Senior Superintendent.
These were Messrs. Slacks Robinson and Cecil Roberts.
TSEL provided an engineer who advised on the assembly
of the bridge components. This person was Mr. John Elliot, who came
from England and functioned as Technical Adviser to Mr. Holder.
The bridge components were assembled to form trusses
on land at the construction site, while the uniflotes were assembled
to form pontoons in the river alongside the bank at the same site. Two
trusses were then connected together with transoms and sway braces and
then placed on two pontoons to form a floating bridge span. Parallel
with this the abutments were constructed at each end of the bridge by
driving greenheart piles into the ground and casting reinforced concrete
pile caps on them. The first span of the bridge was constructed as described
above and then towed by a river tug from the construction location to
the location on the bridge. One end was placed on the abutment, while
the other end was anchored to the river bed. Successive floating spans
were towed from construction location to bridge location and connected
to the spans already placed in position on the bridge. The construction
of the bridge proceeded simultaneously from both ends with the two retractor
spans being the last to be positioned on the bridge.
A significant feature of the construction of the bridge
was the fact that the workforce was comprised entirely of employees
(mostly temporary) of MWT
The bridge was declared open to traffic on 2
July 1978 at a ceremony attended by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.
The toll station was incomplete at the time and it
was announced that passage across the bridge would be free for the first
month, during which the toll station would be completed. There was a
public competition for the naming of the bridge and the name “Demerara
Harbour Bridge” was chosen from the entries submitted.
The bridge is a 1851 meters (1.15 miles) long floating
toll bridge consists of a pedestrian foot walk, with 61 spans, a raised
section that provides a horizontal clearance of 32.0 metres and a vertical
clearance of 7.9 metres to allow small vessels to pass at all times
and two retractor spans retract fully to leave a horizontal clearance
of 77.4 metres to allow large vessels to pass.