Bridge worries grow

‘Some people in past Governments may have known of the problems’ By MAIKELI SERU Government, through the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA), has stepped in to avoid major safety problems with
13 Oct 2012 13:09

The Stinson Parade bridge was closed to all traffic on Friday afternoon.

‘Some people in past Governments may have known of the problems’


Government, through the Fiji Roads Authority (FRA), has stepped in to avoid major safety problems with bridges. This follows revelations by the FRA that about 30 bridges around the country need immediate repairs or replacement.
Two of the bridges are now closed to traffic and pedestrians.These are on Stinson Parade and at Vatuwaqa in Suva.
This is because, the FRA said, “they are disasters waiting to happen”.
The bridges were closed at noon yesterday, amidst busy Friday traffic, but FRA Fiji change manager Mike Rudge is calling for patience from members of the public because the bridges could collapse at anytime.
“Thirty years of looking after bridges and I have not seen anything like this. The concrete beams have holes in them and the steel beams are completely rusted,” Mr Rudge said.
On Tuesday, because of the seriousness and life-threatening conditions of the bridges, Mr Rudge said they briefed Cabinet and were directed to close traffic and pedestrians from using the bridges.
Pictures of defects on the bridges show rusted hypertension cables which are 25-millimetre rods bound together, cracked piers, and rusted universal beams.
Mr Rudge said this showed that there had been no maintenance on the bridges and some people in past governments may have known of the problems.
He said a tragic accident could happen if one of the bridges collapsed.
“Modern structure design is done so that they don’t fail catastrophically and without warning. When bridges deteriorate to this extent that is the likely mode of failure. The design, consideration taken by the designers and built into the construction has gone out of the window.
“Once the load shifts, it creates more damage. It is likely the failure could be rapid and sudden and could involve school children in a bus.
“The paramount reason for closing the bridges is for safety,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary for Information Sharon Smith-Johns echoed his comments calling on the public to be patient as FRA works on repairs and replacement which might include building bailey bridges on top of the closed bridges.
Mr Rudge said the Stinson Parade Bridge would need $6-$10 million to replace while Vatuwaqa needed about $15m.
He said it would take three months to conduct repairs and 18 months to build new bridges.
At the moment there are no funds allocated for bridge repair works or replacements and FRA will submit proposals for more funds in the 2013 National Budget allocation.
Meanwhile, traffic has been re-routed along Stinson Parade through Usher Street while Vatuwaqa bridge traffic will travel along Bhindi Sub-Division, Kharsanji Road and Grantham Road.
As of today, traffic has also been rerouted, with commuters detouring along Grantham Road instead of crossing the Fletcher Road Bridge in Vatuwaqa. Those travelling around Suva will need to use Usher Street instead of crossing the Stinson Parade Bridge in the capital city.
Mr Rudge said last night authorities agreed to close the bridges indefinitely after detailed structural surveys revealed that both bridges were no longer safe for the public to use.
“Since  taking  over the  responsibility for roads, bridges  and jetties  in Fiji at  the start  of  the year, the  Fiji  Roads  Authority  had  started  inspecting all roads , bridges  and jetties. This  is  an important  task  as the  FRA  needs  to  understand  the  condition  of  all these assets  to  better plan  how it provides  services  to  the people.  To date, the FRA   has inspected a little over one third of the bridges.  The FRA is alarmed at the state of these bridges and the serious problems associated with it”.
The Fiji roads Authority was set up by the Bainimarama Government to fix the country’s road system, and maintain and develop it. International experts have been brought in.
Mr Rudge provided media outlets with the latest developments concerning the bridge closures including a presentation on why the authority had to reach this decision in closing the bridges.
“The timeline to reopen these bridges is dependent on several factors. We are looking at options such as constructing a bailey bridge, which is a temporary solution, however, both need to be replaced,” he said.
“These decisions have not been taken lightly, as we know it will cause traffic delays. However for the safety of all citizens we must act responsibly and with urgency,” Mr Rudge said.
Further updates on the situation will be provided as and when there are any changes.

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