Bridge Programme, Priorities

By Neil Cook Over 100,000 trips take place over Fiji’s bridges every day. The Fiji Roads Authority is responsible for over a thousand bridges located across Fiji in urban and
09 Aug 2014 10:09

One of 14 bridges that will be replaced in the Nabouwalu Dreketi Project

By Neil

Over 100,000 trips take place over Fiji’s bridges every day. The Fiji Roads Authority is responsible for over a thousand bridges located across Fiji in urban and rural settings and the current condition of bridges one of the key risk areas for FRA – and for Fiji.
Keeping bridges open is a very high priority for FRA in order that our children get access to school and business can go on as usual.
There are times when temporary bridge closures are required to allow repairs or maintenance to proceed; whilst this presents a short term inconvenience it is necessary if we are to achieve the long term gains from having safer, more reliable structures.
Around 100 bridges are identified as very high priority, meaning that their replacement as soon as possible is the recommended action.
A further 200 bridges require significant remedial work to maintain their structural integrity.

Some challenges
There are significant challenges FRA and Fiji faces in dealing with this very large backlog of bridge maintenance and replacement.
Obviously a key challenge for government is balancing the economic affordability of a billion dollar problem with the risks of not proceeding with the works.
Even if a bridge failure does not result in any harm to individuals, it can have a devastating effect on local community in terms of access and economic participation.
This is a key reason why government has stepped in to fund the replacement of the Denarau Bridge, with responsibility for the construction taken on by FRA.
Apart from funding, the need to get specialist bridge engineersto remote locations is another challenge as is the lack of information available for existing structures.
The one thing we know for certain is a lot of bridges require maintenance and many require full replacement. We also know that many bridges are not lasting as long as they should. FRA intends to build structures that will last 100years.
That requires a combination of good design practice, the right quality materials and a high standard of construction. In order to achieve this a lot of groundwork has to take place to get it right before construction even starts.

Planning ahead
Before construction can take place a lot of work is done behind the scenes including geotechnical assessments of ground conditions, surveys of the water way and approaches to the bridge etc.
We also carry out hydrological and hydraulicanalysisto determine what flow of water is expected in the water way.
All this investigatory work allows the designers to prepare a design that suits the specific location and will deliver the right level of service for a particular bridge.
For some complex structures in remote locations it may be 2 years from when we start investigations before any construction starts.
In 2014, for bridges and Irish crossings the following sites were released for construction; Nakorosule, Togo Lavusa, Vutuni1 and Vutuni 2, Masi, Vuadomo and Namuavoivoi.
The Nasau crossing was the first to be completed in 2014 and it was heartening to attend the opening of this crossing by the Honourable Prime Minister.
Also to hear firsthand from the villagers how excited and appreciative they were to have a facility reinstated after decades passing since the original structure washed away.
This is the message we take with us back into our planning for future work programmes – we always return to the central truth that what we do is about delivery of services to people and communities.
The roads and bridges are not an end goal in themselves. FRA, and the work we do, is just an enabler to allow individuals, communities and businesses to thrive and contribute to the development of themselves and Fiji as a whole.
nNeil Cook is the CEO of the Fiji Roads Authority. This is his regular column which will be published by the Fiji Sun on Saturdays.

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